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My Turn: Transboundary impacts on Southeast fishing

Posted: March 2, 2014 - 1:09am

Sen. Mark Begich is in town this weekend, and we hope he’s reading the Juneau Empire. Fishermen have a lot at stake in Southeast Alaska, and growing numbers of us are greatly concerned about mining activity on the Canadian side of the border, upstream of our major fisheries.

Southeast is among the world’s best places for fishing, whether sport, commercial, subsistence or personal use. The fish we target are healthy, abundant and within close reach.

The 17 million-acre Tongass National Forest is a rugged nursery that sustains our fisheries, and for the third year in a row Southeast has been Alaska’s most lucrative region for commercial salmon fishing. On an annual basis, salmon contribute about $1 billion to the local economy and provide jobs for over 7,000 people, with sport, charter and personal use fishing accounting for about a third of the dollar value and employment.

In 2013, the Southeast commercial harvest exceeded 100 million salmon for the first time, and the catch value was nearly $220 million at the docks. As you can see, we have a lot to lose from ill effects of upstream activity in northern British Columbia. We need our Congressional delegates to engage on this issue.

Construction of the Northwest Transmission Line has enabled a dozen or so industrial-sized mining projects to move forward in the headwaters of major salmon-producing rivers that flow into Southeast Alaska. These developments are located on transboundary rivers that we depend upon for salmon. These Canadian mines would employ few, if any, Alaskans and have the potential to degrade the water quality and spawning habitat of these rivers.

Here is a glimpse of the cross-border activity our waterways would be subjected to:

• The proposed Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell (KSM) gold-copper mine located in the headwaters of the Unuk River which flows into Southeast Alaska’s Misty Fjords National Monument. This mine plan calls for three large open pits, an underground mine, an enormous tailings dump and large waste rock containments that will fill two valleys and contain billions of tons of acid-generating rock.

• The reopening of the Tulsequah Chief mine, located on the Tulsequah River just upstream of its confluence with the Taku River. The Taku is Southeast Alaska’s biggest salmon producer.

• The proposed Galore Creek mine, located on Galore Creek, which flows into the Scud River, a salmon-producing tributary of the Stikine River. Emptying out at Wrangell, the Stikine is a huge salmon-producing river for Alaskans. Tailings from Galore Creek would be submerged in Round Lake, which drains into the Iskut River, the Stikine’s major tributary.

• The proposed Schaft Creek mine located between Schaft Creek and Mess Creek, a tributary of the Stikine River. Mining the deposit would generate 100 million tons of waste rock in an area with extremely high seasonal water flow.

• The Red Chris mine near the headwater lakes of the Iskut River. Several hundred million tons of tailings and waste rock would be submerged in Black Lake, which drains into the Iskut River.

Each of these developments has the potential to release acid mine drainage, which can kill fish. At this point, there is little dialogue occurring between Canada and the United States, there is little policy in place to protect Alaskan waters and we are not being consulted as these B.C. mines move forward. We look to our elected leaders to use their leverage and negotiate protections for our livelihoods and the cornerstone of our economy.

Our Alaska congressional delegation has a critical role to play in this matter and we need Sen. Begich, Sen. Murkowski and Rep. Young to raise the alarm with the U.S. State Department. High-level officials need to initiate talks with Canada and use whatever means possible to ensure Alaska’s interests are protected.

Canadian concerns end at the border, but the rivers know no borders and neither do the fish. If you value fish, please help spread the word and urge our congressional delegates to take action.

• David Clark lives in Juneau, is the founder of the Commercial Fishing Film Festival and has commercially fished in Southeast Alaska for 17 years. Brad Elfers has owned Alaska Fly Fishing Goods in Juneau for over 15 years.

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Owen Beaver
Owen Beaver 03/02/14 - 08:47 am
Wack a Mole!

The world cannot exit without fly fishing or fish film festivals! Copper, nickel, zinc, gold, silver, molybdenum; we don't need any of those.

The world's demand for metals and minerals is ever increasing; wild fish production has been and will continue to be replaced by ocean and shore based fish farming. By stopping projects like Pebble and Keystone production will shift to foreign states that may not have the environmental safeguards that we have in the US. You can ride the wave but you can't stop the tide.

Owen Beaver
Owen Beaver 03/02/14 - 10:45 am
Great neighbors...

Do a little research on the Galore Creek mine. The operator, Novagold, is significantly involved in Alaskan mining. Their project, the Donlin mine, in Southwest Alaska has the support of the local villagers in Crooked Creek as well as Calista and Kuskokwim Corps. That mine should provide stable year round employment of around 1000 direct jobs for 30 years, they're training the local kids now for jobs that will give local hiring preference.

Tim Miller
Tim Miller 03/02/14 - 01:19 pm
Novagold great neighbors?The

Novagold great neighbors?

The Justice Department said that from April 2007 until September 2008 Alaska Gold and NovaGold violated their permit on multiple occasions by discharging stormwater into Rock Cree, Lindblom Creek and Glacier Creek in violation of state water quality standards.
The companies also failed to adequately prepare and update a storm water pollution prevention plan and failed to implement and maintain best management practices to control the discharge, the DOJ said.

"they're training the local kids now for jobs that will give local hiring preference"

Kids, indigenous populations have historically provided a source of cheap labor.

Tim Miller
Tim Miller 03/02/14 - 01:27 pm
NovaGold Resources also had a

NovaGold Resources also had a Securities Stock Fraud and class action lawsuit filed against them in the United States District Court on behalf of all purchasers of securities of NovaGold Resources ...

Owen Beaver
Owen Beaver 03/02/14 - 04:12 pm
What is it?

Racism or hypocrisy; Alaskan miners make a lot more than state employees!

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