Barging of ore concentrates from the Tulsequah Chief Mine down the Taku River to Juneau seems reasonable if the barge or tow vehicles do not seriously disturb salmonid habitat.
Reaches of the Taku River mainstem below the Tulsequah River confluence are important for salmonid spawning and rearing. Fall salmon spawning in the mainstem Taku River below the Tulsequah River has been documented on both Canadian and U.S. reaches of the river. Adult sockeye salmon were observed by Ray and Nancy Kendel in the Snaggy Bend Reach above the U.S.-Canadian border, and I observed fall chum salmon spawning from the U.S.-Canadian border downstream to the area below Canyon Island known as Ward's Island.
Rearing and movement of juvenile salmonids through this area also has been well documented by Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The proposed movement of concentrates during low water with tracked tow vehicles would definitely disturb the river bottom, banks and riparian areas that are important for salmonid spawning and rearing.
The bottom line is that barging with conventional tugs can probably be conducted in a manner to minimize impacts to the ecosystem, but tracked tow vehicles should never be permitted. I find it difficult to comprehend that the proposal to use tracked tow vehicles could even be considered in an anadromous salmonid drainage.
Loss or severe decline of many wild salmonid stocks has occurred in the Lower 48 and parts of British Columbia. The major reason for these stock losses or declines was failure of regulators to adequately protect spawning and rearing habitat.
Retired fishery biologist
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