The Taku River is one of the most important watersheds in Southeast Alaska. It is often the largest salmon producer in the region with as many as two million salmon returning annually. As a young commercial salmon fisherman, I am worried that Redcorp Venture's plan to reopen the Tulsequah Chief Mine and its recent proposal to use a hover barge and an amphibious tug on the Taku River will greatly endanger these important salmon runs.
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According to a McDowell Group report, commercial fishing Taku River salmon provides Southeast Alaska with 80 jobs, $1.4 million in labor income and $5.4 million in total regional output. The sustainable annual salmon runs will always be more important and valuable to Juneau than the Tulsequah Chief Mine.
Redcorp's proposal to use a hover barge and an amphibious tug is a complete surprise and raises many new questions and concerns:
What effects will the Hoover barge and an amphibious tug have on salmon fry, salmon spawning beds and the critical side channel habitat in the Taku and Tulsequah rivers?
What happens if there is an accident and a spill of mining concentrate or fuel in the river?
Will the fans used to raise the barge above the water kill or scare salmon fry or salmon returning to spawn?
Will the tracks on the amphibious tug destroy critical salmon habitat and change the Taku River forever?
Has such technology ever been tested on a river such as the Taku?
I urge Gov. Sarah Palin to ask Redcorp Ventures to honestly answer these questions. The commercial fishermen that depend on these salmon runs to support Southeast Alaska's economy deserve answers. I also encourage Palin to work with Canadian officials to create a Taku River watershed plan that would set standards for development and guarantee permanent protection for the important salmon runs.
We have an opportunity to protect the Taku River watershed and ensure it does not turn into an industrial shipping channel polluted with acid mine drainage. If we sit on our hands and let the Canadian mining corporations do as they please, in 20 years there may not be nearly as many Taku River salmon.
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