The state of Alaska  wants to change the rules that regulate the use of water in salmon streams.  A mid- January Letter to Alaskans from the Dept. of Natural Resources says the changes are needed “to provide clarity and consistency in the Division of Mining, Land and Water’s processes. It also invites Alaskans to comment.

Lindsey Bloom is a campaign strategist for Salmon State based in Juneau. She agrees that the rules need more clarity.

“The problem is that they’re proposing to roll the regulations back in just the absolute opposite direction, and create a lot more red tape and hoops for Alaskans who want to reserve water and streams for fish to have to jump through to possibly ever achieve that.”

Bloom points out that for a long time water rights advocates have proposed a simple solution – a blanket reservation that says a reasonable amount of water will automatically be reserved for fish. The onus would fall to developers to study the hydrology of a water system to prove their project would cause no harm.

“Unfortunately, the Dunleavy administration is choosing to take it in the opposite direction, and make it very, very difficult to reserve the water for fish. What they’re saying is the assumption is there are no fish there and the fish don’t need the water. And if Alaskans want that water to stay in the stream for fish, you have to prove it. And you have to prove it with up to five years of specific hydrological data and make an application to the state.  One of the things that this does is it takes away my right or a tribal government’s right or fishing organization’s right to hold the certificate for the instream flow reservation. And it says even if I go through all of the investment and the work of perfecting an application and getting a reservation of water, then DNR will hold that water right. The problem is if that were ever to be challenged in any way, I don’t have any assurance or security that DNR would protect that water right into the future.”

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The Alaska Miners Association in 2018 blamed ‘anti-development entities’ for using instream flow reservations to stop projects. They said the solution is to “place an immediate moratorium on processing applications and pursue regulatory changes to ensure that only state agencies can hold reservations of state water.

Public comments to DNR are accepted through February 26.  (dnr.water.regulation@alaska.gov/)

 

 

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