Credit: Inlet Keeper

Water is the focus of three fish stories in the news this week —

First, a judge recommended this week that the state Department of Environmental Conservation was wrong to issue a Clean Water Act certificate to Donlin Mine, the world’s largest gold mine planned upstream from villages near the Kuskokwim River. Anna Rose MacArthur at KYUK in Bethel sums up the 78 page decision:

“The state initially issued a certificate of reasonable assurance” to Donlin in August 2018, saying the state had reasonable assurance Donlin’s operations would comply with state water standards. The certificate is a precursor to one of the biggest state permits Donlin needs before it can begin constructing and operating its gold mine, which requires more than 100 state permits to operate. 

The Orutsararmiut Native Council challenged the certificate, contending the state cannot have “reasonable assurance” the mine won’t violate water standards. Specifically, the tribe said the state can’t guarantee Donlin Gold will maintain Alaska’s environmental standards for mercury levels, water temperature and fish habitat.”

DEC Commissioner Jason Brune has until May 5 to respond to the judge’s recommendation.

Next, more than 1,000 Alaskans spoke out against the state’s plans to change the rules that regulate the use of water in salmon streams  during a public comment period that ended on April 2.

The Dept. of Natural Resources claims the changes are needed “to provide clarity and consistency in the Division of Mining, Land and Water’s processes. The changes would give developers the rights to take water from streams, but would not allow other entities to hold instream water reservations to protect fish stocks.

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.

A legislative hearing has been requested.

Finally, the Japanese government announced it will dump 250 million gallons of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean that’s been stored in massive tanks at the Fukushima nuclear plant that was badly damaged by an earthquake in 2011, calling it “the most practical solution.” The release will begin within two years and the government said it “will do its utmost to provide compensation to fishermen for any damages.”