I was surprised the Juneau Empire chose to print such an old photograph of Lower Slate Lake on May 23.
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The photo accompanied the story about the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejecting Coeur Alaska's plan to dump Kensington Mine waste into the lake, which drains into Berners Bay. It showed a beautiful, pristine lake perched high above the bay. But it was taken before the mine began preparing the lake to hold the waste.
If Empire readers want to see what the lake looked like less than three months after the published photo was taken, they can go to seacc.org and click on the link that says "Construction activities as of 10/2/06." Those photos show that a road has been built to the lake and the land surrounding it has been logged and scraped to bare ground.
To me, it is a sickening sight made even more so knowing the destruction occurred, probably uselessly, in Coeur's so-far unsuccessful attempt to force a change to the Clean Water Act. If Coeur chooses not to appeal the 9th Circuit's ruling, or unless higher courts reverse the ruling, the devastation will have occurred needlessly.
Nearly every lake and pond in the United States will be vulnerable to industrial degradation if Coeur ultimately succeeds in its attempt.
According to an Anchorage Daily News article, also published May 23, Lower Slate Lake "supports about 1,000 Dolly Varden and other fish." A fish biologist once told me that Dollies from freshwater lakes often are swept downstream where they enhance saltwater populations. How many of these "nurseries" are we willing to sacrifice?
I am all for leaving the Clean Water Act the way it is. I wish Coeur would have left the lake that way, too.
Thanks to Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, the Sierra Club and Lynn Canal Conservation - the groups that are battling Coeur in court - for attempting to protect our clean water.
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