Is Coeur suggesting people eat lake fish?

Letter to the editor

Posted: Monday, February 12, 2007

Perhaps Errol Champion (Tuesday's Juneau Empire) will clear up a couple of my questions about this "viable" fishery that Coeur Alaska is proposing for Lower Slate Lake. Is this to be a catch and release fishery, or are the mine folks suggesting people actually eat these fish?

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My own background as a commercial fisherman is driving this question, because it is my opinion that consumers of Alaska's fish are especially influenced by the state's reputation for pristine waters. It is also my opinion that Coeur has a pretty poor reputation of taking care of water quality, in particular the headwaters of Coeur d'Alene Lake.

While Coeur d'Alene Lake appears to be lovely and thriving, I can assure you that I would not eat any of the fish produced in this system, due to the incredible flushing of lead, etc., from Coeur's lead-silver operations during much of the 1900s. Certainly this lake eventually will clean itself, as time and nature tend to do those things well. But my next question is: How long would it take before the 20-acre Lower Slate Lake (now 60 acres) produces edible fish?

The driving force here is money, of course. My own feelings are that the high-paying jobs at Kensington Mine would certainly overwhelm any considerations for a few trout or char in this small lake. But there are other considerations, pristine water quality being one of them. As I see it, the crux of this argument comes down to whether Coeur is willing to adhere to the Clean Water Act, relative to the dumping of mine tailings, and not whether the water coming out of the lake is Clean Water Act approved.

I don't pretend to know anything of Southeast Alaska Conservation Council's intentions, other than what it has stated, or whether or not the group is being hypocritical.

Bill Yankee


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