Parnell, Campbell say no to salmon stream protections Credit: AP

Parnell, Campbell say no to salmon stream protections
Credit: AP

July 29, 2013

From Cook InletKeeper –            

Parnell Administration: Alaska’s Salmon Streams open for Coal Mining
State denies wild salmon stream protections

ANCHORAGE — Governor Parnell and the Alaska Department of Natural Resource rejected a petition on Friday filed by local citizens seeking to protect wild Alaska salmon streams from coal strip mining in Upper Cook Inlet.

“This is a horrible precedent for Alaska wild salmon and the countless families they support. PacRim Coal’s mining plans would remove miles and miles of wild Alaska salmon streams to a depth of over 300 feet,” said Judy Heilman, Chuitna Citizens Coalition President. “The Alaska Department of Fish and Game calls the tributaries PacRim would remove as important to salmon, yet the state refuses to formally protect our wild salmon streams.”

In January 2010 the Chuitna Citizens Coalition and Cook Inletkeeper submitted a petition seeking protective buffers around the Chuitna River and its tributaries under the Alaska Surface Coal Mining and Reclamation Act. No coal strip mining would be allowed within salmon streams, but the petition would not preclude mining in the rest of PacRim’s coal lease area; similar buffers are standard for logging operations and in municipal development plans.

“It’s a sad day when Governor Parnell’s policies protect a Delaware corporation’s profits over our wild Cook Inlet salmon runs and the Alaskan families salmon support” said Terry Jorgensen, a Cook Inlet commercial fisherman and founding member of the Chuitna Citizens Coalition. “DNR’s rejection clearly illustrates the State’s failure to protect our wild salmon runs. The Governor must understand the importance of salmon to Alaskans, yet his policies are leading us down the same path that led to the demise of salmon runs around the world.”

Dr. Margaret Palmer, the Director of the National Science Foundation’s Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center unambiguously told Alaska Senate Committee members that PacRim’s mining plan will destroy 11 miles of salmon streams and that these impacts will be irreversible. Dr. Palmer, who is an expert in stream restoration with a long history dealing with impacts of surface mining on streams, went on to say: “large scale failure at Chuitna is inevitable.”

“Governor Parnell has said on several occasions he would ‘never trade one resource for another,’ but that’s exactly what he’s doing by allowing strip mining in our salmon streams,” said Heilman. “Time and again the Parnell administration has refused to protect our salmon and our way of life. It’s time for Alaskans to stand up for the salmon we all depend on.”

The public interest law firm Trustees for Alaska represented the Chuitna Citizens Coalition and Cook Inletkeeper. The groups’ Petition can be found here, and the State’s rejection here.

Contacts:  Judy Heilman,  907-583-2277 — Bob Shavelson, 907-299-3277