Perhaps you have seen our ads thanking Sen. Lisa Murkowski for standing up for the permitting process for Pebble. The theme of our ads is “We need jobs” and “We want hope.” While the coastal communities in our region see some benefits from the short commercial fishing season, many in our home communities do not.
Recently, several of our Bristol Bay leaders took to these pages pushing Sen. Murkowski to be more aggressively involved in the permitting process. We support Sen. Murkowski staying informed and engaged about the Pebble issue. When it comes to the permitting process, we encourage her to help keep it on track.
We worry that if Sen. Murkowski inserts herself too far into the Pebble permitting process, it will set a precedent for future resource projects in Alaska. We think we can all agree that Alaska resource development projects engender a fair amount of controversy. This is why we need an objective and transparent permitting process, which is exactly what we have witnessed via the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for Pebble.
We have all submitted comments to the Army Corps of Engineers as part of the permitting process and know that our comments along with all other comments must be fully addressed through the permitting process.
Jason Metrokin, Alannah Hurley, Ralph Anderson, and Norm Van Vactor are good, well-intentioned people. However, we want Alaskans to know that they do not speak for our home villages. When we press them for answers and ideas about jobs and hope for our communities, all we hear back are crickets. This is because there are no easy solutions. This is why we continue to press for a full and fair evaluation for the Pebble prospect.
We have seen firsthand what the “no Pebble” scenario looks like for our communities. It is more out-migration. It is more homes split apart as family members move to other places for work. It is higher costs of energy that cripple our communities in the winter. It is watching some of our schools close while others teeter on the fence due to declining enrollment. It lacks hope.
We have long said that development of a mine at Pebble may not be our first choice for an economy for our region, but in the last 20 years it has really been the only choice. We have had long-standing business relationships with the project to provide a range of services for their exploration program.
We have brought numerous issues of concern to their attention and have worked with them on realistic solutions. While not perfect, our relationship has produced meaningful jobs for our shareholders. More importantly, it has given us a seat at the table with the potential developer so we can hear firsthand about their plans and have our questions answered.
We agree when Sen. Murkowski says the mine must not have a negative impact on our fisheries. We want her to know we have worked with the Pebble environmental team and their many consultants. We have asked them important questions about their work. We believe the permitting process is the forum to validate whether Pebble can be developed responsibly. And if it can be done right, we are encouraged by what it could mean for our shareholders and communities.
We are hopeful it could bring needed jobs and economic activity to the Iliamna Lake area communities. We are hopeful that it can provide tax revenues for our schools and other languishing infrastructure. We ask that the next time you see stories that the Bristol Bay region opposes development of Pebble, that you will remember us and the views from the communities closest to the proposed project.
Lisa Reimers is CEO of Iliamna Development Corp. Ventura Samaniego is CEO of Kijik Corp. Brad Angasan is senior vice president of Alaska Peninsula Corp.