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Seabed Mining Opponents Off WA Coast Find Win in Legislature

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Tuesday, May 4, 2021   

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Gov. Jay Inslee signed a seabed mining ban into law Monday. The measure prohibits mineral extraction within three miles of Washington's coastline.

It received nearly unanimous support in the Legislature, except for two "no" votes in the House.

Lee First, co-founder of Twin Harbors Waterkeeper, helped mobilize businesses and conservation organizations to support the ban.

"It's really rare that we have a chance to stop a potentially catastrophic activity," First explained. "And stopping seabed mining is a huge win for our small coastal towns here in southwest Washington."

Senate Bill 5145's prohibition includes the extraction of precious metals.

First pointed out mining would be disruptive to fishing, the main industry in her region, and noted dredging and sediment plumes can harm sensitive marine habitats. The bill also is important for tribal nations that rely on the Washington coast.

First added one of the biggest concerns with seabed mining is habitats may not be restorable once they've been mined.

"On land, we finally figured out how to do restoration, like along rivers and riparian areas and the like," First remarked. "We have no idea how to restore the sea floor."

Oregon passed a ban on seabed mining in 1991. First hopes California joins its West Coast neighbors in banning the practice.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

References:  
Senate Bill 5145

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