Why not an exemption in Clean Water Act?

Letter to the editor

Posted: Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Kensington Mine finds itself between a rock and a hard spot, no pun intended. Politics make things really complicated sometimes. Perhaps more complicated than they ought to be, and unfortunately sometimes really good projects that make sense in so many ways never come to fruition because of politics. This letter is in support of good old-fashioned common sense and Coeur Alaska's tireless efforts.

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As a native Alaska resident who has had the good fortune and pleasure of doing business with a melting pot of folks with all kinds of views from super conservative to extremely liberal, I have yet to run across anyone who can explain how the Kensington Mine project is going to harm the existing environment.

Mine tailings are bad for the environment if and only if they are not properly disposed. Ocean disposal versus dry stacking the tailings versus placing tailings in Lower Slate Lake sounds like the question of the day. If I recall, the Environmental Protection Agency initially did not like the idea of ocean disposal because there was no provision to permit it and came up with the idea of placing the tailings into Lower Slate Lake because the lack of habitat in the isolated ecosystem. It sounds like good scientific sense.

The Clean Water Act is incredibly important and has protected environments and ecosystems from pollution all across America. It is the Clean Water Act that is prohibiting the existing permits to be put to use. Why can't there be an exemption for this situation? The EPA already approved the reclamation process. Why does Southeast Alaska Conservation Council want to stop this win-win project?

Alaska is lucky to have environmentally sensitive producers such as Coeur Alaska committed to projects such as Kensington. No one can argue the obvious; it is, has been and will continue to be good for Juneau's economy. Conversely, I have heard sound scientific arguments that this project will not harm the existing environment.

Checks and balances are good and necessary in the fight to protect the environment from irresponsible developers. Perhaps it is possible that in this case the great protector might be a little irresponsible for not looking at the big picture of what the Clean Water Act is really intended to protect.

I wish Coeur Alaska good luck in its continued 18-year pursuit in setting high standards as an environmentally sensitive producer.

Reecia Wilson

Co-owner, Hangar on the Wharf


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