PLANS for a massive copper and gold mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay represent a long-term hazard to the health of an extraordinary source of wild salmon.

Bristol Bay is a part of a lucrative Alaskan salmon industry that employs thousands, and is a rich part of the state’s economic and social heritage.

Seasonal estimates for the state push the 2013 projected catch to 179 million salmon. Last year Bristol Bay was the third-most-productive region with 22 million salmon caught, and most were pricey sockeye salmon.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has looked askance at the mining plans, but made no decision. The epic scale of the proposal and its impact on vast expanses of rivers, streams and wetlands stir deep concerns.

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For all of the potential of modern mitigation techniques, questions are raised about the practical burden of keeping mine tailings and fouled waters out of pristine waters for, well, ever.

Bristol Bay’s salmon fishery fuels trade with China and Japan, and the processing and commercial fishing pieces are present in Washington’s economy.

Sport fishing is also part of Alaska’s economic mix and tourist draw.

Bristol Bay nurtures a healthy economic environment that produces American jobs. Bristol Bay thrives because of a sustainable natural environment for wild salmon.

Protect a valuable resource from an avoidable and artificial hazard.