I hope the governor and our Southeast Alaska legislators are closely watching the state review of Redfern's proposal to barge Canadian mining ore down the Taku River using this untested, unproven technology.
As the governor recently mentioned in her State of the State address, "We're supporting our tremendous fisheries - for 150 years they have been the economic and social heart of our coastal communities. They define and sustain us, and I will not let politics interfere with management-for-abundance of our largest private sector employer."
Maybe politics should interfere with the oversight of this proposal because current oversight puts Taku River fish and wildlife at risk. For example, on Dec. 5, 2007, fisheries biologists from the Juneau office of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game sent a five-page memorandum to the state Department of Natural Resources outlining their concerns with the proposed hoverbarge system and requested more information from DNR in order to evaluate the project's potential impact on fish and wildlife (find Fish and Game'smemorandum at www.riverswithoutborders.org).
Less than two weeks later, on Dec. 17, DNR issued Redfern Resources a preliminary Land Use Permit that states, "It is not anticipated that there will be significant adverse impacts on the designated fish and wildlife harvest activities resulting from this use."
How did DNR decide this so quickly after receiving Fish and Game's memorandum, which specifically states there has not been an adequate assessment of the project and that more data is required? DNR's disregard of Fish and Game's information request shows negligence and makes the case for bringing the Habitat Division back to Fish and Game. The hoverbarge proposal and other large mining projects should be reviewed and overseen by the fisheries biologists who are managing the fisheries resource on the ground.
There will be a public meeting to discuss the Taku River hoverbarge proposal at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Juneau Arts and Cultural Center (old Armory). I hope people from Southeast attend this meeting and let DNR and their legislators know of their concerns. Public comments on this proposal are being accepted by DNR until Feb. 4. If you care about Southeast Alaska's largest salmon producing river, the time to act is now.