Looser mixing zone rules are not Alaskan

Posted: Thursday, April 13, 2006

Allowing pollution in fish spawning waters flies in the face of the vast majority of Alaskans who have spoken out repeatedly in the past against loosening mixing zone regulations. It flies in the face of the commercial fishing industry and the state's own strategy to revitalize the market value of our wild salmon. It flies in the face of subsistence users, especially because the new regulations have even more loopholes for the spawning waters of species other than salmon.

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But allowing pollution in fish spawning waters is exactly what is done by the Department of Environmental Conservation's new regulations on mixing zones. They clearly and simply threaten the health of our salmon, trout, grayling and other fish. On the surface they appear to prohibit mixing zones in spawning waters, but if you read the regulations closely, you find that they actually allow mixing zone pollution in these vital areas.

According to these new regulations, if a stream, lake or other body of water is prime spawning habitat, but the spawning is not actually occurring at the time the pollution is introduced, then the mixing is not prohibited. Unfortunately, that is no assurance that the polluting agents will not still be present in the mixing zone site when the fish do spawn there. If these new regulations go against fishermen, subsistence users and the vast majority of Alaskans, why were they adopted? Why not stay with the old regulations which offered a hard and fast prohibition of mixing zones in spawning waters? Who is the state representing by putting all these loopholes in its regulations?

Luckily there is a better option that does not threaten one of our most precious resources. Rep. Paul Seaton from Homer, along with a large bipartisan group of co-sponsors, has been championing a bill to prohibit mixing zones in spawning waters. If passed, it would save the health of our salmon from the threats of mixing zones. I encourage you to contact your legislators and support the bill.

Bart Watson


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