Washington's U.S. senators are praising a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency for starting a process that could potentially restrict the development of proposed gold-and-copper mine in southwest Alaska.
The EPA on Friday asked Alaska and those behind the proposed Pebble Mine to make their case for the project.
An EPA report in January that found large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay watershed posed significant risk to salmon.
The Democratic senators, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, say the proposed mine could have devastating impacts on the Pacific Northwest fishing industry. Thousands of Washington state jobs are tied to Bristol Bay salmon fishing.
Other Democratic members of the state's congressional delegation also have urged the EPA to protect the salmon fishery from potential mining pollution.
Pebble supporters had worried about the EPA move, which could result in the agency blocking the project, even before it gets to the permitting phase.