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Ballot Measure 4 Debated at Hearing in Kotzebue

Ballot Measure 4 would require that after the permitting process for a large mine in the Bristol Bay region, the final step to authorization would be a vote from the legislature. Photo via Google Maps Engine.

The public hearing on Ballot Measure 4 in Kotzebue earlier this month yielded more questions than answers about how the “Bristol Bay Forever” initiative would be implemented, if it passes the vote in November.

Ballot Measure 4 would require that after the permitting process for a large mine in the Bristol Bay region, such as Pebble Mine, the final step to authorize the mine would need to be a vote from the legislature.

According to Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell, chief elections official, turnout was poor in Kotzebue, but he anticipates it’ll be much higher in fisheries communities closer to the bay, like Kodiak and Dillingham.

The “pro” side of the “Bristol Bay Forever” initiative argued that this legislative vote is an extra step to protect the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve from large mine development. The Alaska Miners Association, arguing on the “con” side, said Ballot Measure 4 politicizes the scientific permitting process and adds an unnecessary extra step.

Representatives from the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Natural Resources also participated in the hearing to explain how the current permitting process works. For those on both sides of the debate, Lt. Gov. Treadwell said the hearing aired some major questions.

“What happens if, like Red Dog, you need to expand your mine—do you have to go get a vote of the legislature a second time? What if you need some permits to actually do exploration before you can finish your plan to do mining, do you have to get a vote on that?” Treadwell recapped some of the questions that were explored during the hearing.

Most of those questions are still unanswered, and Treadwell says they’ll continue to be discussed in future hearings.