Pebble Mine scored a small victory last week when the Alaska state Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling denying the Lake and Peninsula Borough (which borders Bristol Bay) from enforcing a voter-approved mining ban. Borough residents passed an initiative in October 2011 that sought to ban both large-scale topsoil removal and mining activity impacting anadromous fish-bearing waters.

The court cited the Alaska Land Act as the main reason for killing the initiative and upholding the state’s authority to hand out mining permits without interference by local governments. Considering the state Supreme Court rebuked the DNR in May for issuing land use permits to Pebble without public notice, it seems the see-saw fight will continue at state and federal levels.

Though Pebble won this battle, the war of public opinion is already lost and Northern Dynasty is mired in a struggle with the EPA over crippling regulatory measures. Several claims against the EPA were dismissed last month, though more are filtering through the legal system.

Meanwhile, in Bristol Bay, the sockeye are spawning and the trout are fat and happy.

This year’s preseason forecast was for 54 million returning sockeye, the biggest run in 20 years. Commercial netters and processors geared up big time and sport-fishing lodges salivated. But the run, which usually goes off at the end of June, didn’t materialize until this week.

“Many of the locals blame hot weather for the delay. The fish just waited until it cooled off,” says Jason Metrokin of Bristol Bay Native Corp, referring to the sweltering days of June when most of Alaska suffered through temps over 90 degrees.

Though the in-season run prediction was adjusted to 47 million sockeye, the numbers are still enormous and increasing daily. The tiny Igushik River system saw a record 83,574 fish last Sunday. The Kvichak, on the other hand, saw 680,000 swim up the same day, reaching an escapement of 6.5 million fish so far.

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Tom Bie is the founder, editor, and publisher of The Drake. He started the magazine in 1998 as an annual newsprint publication based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He then moved it to Steamboat, Colorado (1999), Boulder, Colorado (2001), and San Clemente, California (2004), as he took jobs as managing editor at Paddler, Senior Editor at Skiing, and Editor-in-Chief at Powder, respectively. Tom and The Drake are now both based in Denver, Colorado, where The Drake is finally all grows up(Swingers, 1996) to a quarterly magazine.

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