Melanie Brown, Bristol Bay Setnetter, Juneau (907) 244-1169
Raymond Sensmeier, Yakutat Tlingit Tribe Council Member, Yakutat (907) 738-2232
Dorothy Larson, Tribal Administrator for Curyung Tribal Council, Dillingham (907) 842-2384
Mike Wood, Cook Inlet Setnetter and Carpenter, Chase (907) 354-5815
Mike Friccero, Commercial Fisherman, Kodiak (907) 539-1320

As tension over water bill builds in capitol, Gov. Walker’s fisheries record questioned
Fishermen, tribes and businesses express disappointment in proposed clean water rollbacks

JUNEAU – As tension builds in Juneau over a bill that would politicize the process for designating Outstanding National Resource Waters (HB283/SB163), Alaskan leaders, fishermen, tribal representatives and business owners joined together this morning to express disappointment in Governor Walker’s record on fisheries and clean water issues. They called on him to withdraw support for the bill and implement the ‘fish first’ policies his transition team placed as a top priority.

“This bill is the proverbial straw breaking the camel’s back. During the Governor’s campaign, he and Lt. Governor Mallott promised transparency, unity and decision-making based on the interests of Alaskans,” said Melanie Brown, a Bristol Bay fisherman who lives in Juneau. “But today we are concerned. This bill continues a consistent record of failing to listen to Alaskans calling to put fish first at a time when a king salmon is worth significantly more than a barrel of oil.”

In addition to proposing HB283/SB163,Governor Walker and his Administration denied two out of three instream flow reservations for tributaries of the Chuitna River, despite over 10,000 comments supporting those applications. Further, the Walker Administration allowed the Pebble Partnership to leave a mess at their drill sites and asked Alaskan Native Tribes to waive their sovereignty rights in order to apply for water reservations.

“Most of our more than 2,700 tribal members harvest food and make a living from nearby waters and fisheries every year, all year long,” said Dorothy Larson, of the Curyung Tribal Council. “We’ve told Governor Walker that water nourishes us and the resources that feed our way of life. We are looking for leadership from our Governor to improve intergovernmental relations, not block our tribes from protecting water for fish.”

Additionally, in the midst of the deepest cuts to public spending Alaskans have seen in decades, the Alaska Energy Authority continues to spend state funds in pursuit of a federal license for the Susitna Dam after Governor Walker lifted the stop work order last summer. If approved, this project would dam one of Alaska’s most iconic rivers and threaten the state’s 4th largest king salmon run.

“I am calling on the Governor to make a choice that is hard but right for Alaska: put fisheries, local communities and businesses like my own first, and stop the Susitna Dam,” said Mike Wood. “Given what we’ve got going on now with low oil prices and a budget crisis in our state how can we justify investing another dime, let alone billions on this dam which will bring in zero revenue for Alaska?”

“During my two tours in Vietnam when taking fire from the enemy you ask your buddy, ‘do I have your back?’” said Raymond Sensmeier from the Yakutat Tlingit tribe. “Once again forty years later I find myself fighting for my country and my question to the Governor is – ‘do we have each others’ backs?’”