A land use plan between the Taku River Tlingit First Nation and the Canadian government could mean better protections for fish habitat on the Taku River - good news for Juneau salmon fishermen.
Nearly 1 million acres of the greater Taku River watershed would be protected under the plan, which was released for review last month.
"It's taking the most important part of the Taku River watershed and putting it into protected status that will disallow mining and logging," said Tom Crawford, mining coordinator for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. "From the state of Alaska's point of view, it's providing additional protections for salmon habitat."
Both sides of the proposed agreement need to accept the plan.
In written comments submitted June 28, Alaska officials reiterated concerns about mine pollution draining from the Tulsequah Chief mine in British Columbia into a tributary of the Taku River. The state several times has requested the BC government take steps to clean up the mine, which is leaking acid mine drainage into the Tulsequah Chief River.
The mine was closed in the 1950s. A new owner, Redfern Resources Ltd., tried to reopen the mine but went bankrupt last year. Company president Terry Chandler is in the process of trying to purchase the mine and its permits under a new company called Chieftain Metals. The purchase is under review by the Canadian government.
The mine is not leaking large amounts of pollution into the river, but Juneau residents have been concerned about cumulative effects as well as impacts of an unproved air cushion barge Redfern proposed to transport ore on the water. The Taku is the area's most prized salmon fishery.
Crawford said the plan is intended to create a solution that would allow mine development in the valley but also has management directives that would be protective of salmon. The draft land use plan does not reference air cushion barging on the river.
Past concerns that large-scale industrial development could eventually blossom in the valley would be precluded by the agreement, he said.
Canadian land managers haven't published a firm schedule to decide whether to approve the agreement.
Contact reporter Kim Marquis at 523-2279 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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