My turn: Redfern wants to keep the Taku River intact

Posted: Sunday, December 23, 2007

Rob Cadmus's Dec. 19 My Turn "Murkowski's permitting changes put Taku River salmon at risk" contained many statements and innuendoes that require a response from Redfern Resources.

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First, we agree with local residents that the continued health and productivity of the Taku River fishery is a top priority. It is our intention to keep those resources intact and to operate with the least amount of disruption to local river users. The Taku River fishery is extremely valuable to those on both sides of the border and as such, our efforts are focused on preventing, avoiding and/or mitigating any potential impacts.

There seems to be a debate in Alaska as to which agency should review permits that involve fish habitat. We are not a part of that debate. However, that is the regulatory environment that exists and within which our permits are being reviewed, consistent with practice elsewhere in the state.

The dialogue and communication between Redfern and the Department of Natural Resources Habitat Division and the Department of Fish and Game is continually evolving as questions are raised and new information gathered. The permitting process, like many other processes, is dynamic. Redfern will continue to be responsive to questions and requests for information from regulators responsible for reviewing our permits or other state personnel regardless of the debate over which department agency personnel should issue approval.

Additionally, we have, on a regular basis, met with interested parties, stakeholders, fishermen, river users and First Nation members on both sides of the border, to listen, address concerns and share information about our operations.

It is important to know, before the Air Cushion Barge and Amphitrac are put to use, both will undergo testing to ensure that they perform the way we stated they will. This data will then be made available to the regulators to ensure that both comply with the specifications we provided to them as part of our Operations Plan. During commissioning we will have environmental monitors on board to identify any issues that may arise and report back to state personnel.

Furthermore, the use of ACBs is a proven method of transporting materials and has been used right here in Alaska. In the 1970s, during the construction of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, a similar but smaller ACB operated on the Yukon River with no identified impacts to aquatic resources.

Historically, barging has been used in the past on the river. For our operations, we intend to use conventional ocean and shallow draft river tugs to transport the ACB up and down the river. The Amphitrac (modified Rolligon) will be used as a tow vehicle in the winter months when traveling over the frozen river and during the shoulder season in much the same way as the Rolligon operates on the North Slope today.

The Tulsequah Chief Mine operation is expected to provide a boost to Juneau's somewhat troubled economy. We are pursuing the use of the ACBs and amphitrac instead of constructing a 100-mile road to the site from within British Columbia because it is our intention to develop the mine in an environmentally and fiscally responsible manner that will benefit both Alaska and British Columbia. It is not our intention to replace the fishery with the economic benefits that stem from our operations but rather to add to benefits that come to Alaska from the Taku River watershed.

The bottom line is that we must meet the strict safety and environmental protection criteria set by the state and our operations plan. We simply ask to be treated fairly by everyone. The point of our approach to accessing the mine is to prevent damage to the fishery and river environment and avoid building a 100-mile road in British Columbia while building a mine that will provide significant economic improvement to both Alaska and British Columbia.

• Richard Goodwin is vice president and chief operating officer of Redcorp Ventures Ltd in Vancouver, British Columbia.

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