Wednesday, November 25, 2020

BC Updates Plan to Stop Pollution from
Tulsequah Chief Mine

Plans are moving along for halting acid drainage in a transboundary mine between British Columbia and Alaska, but it’s a slow process that could take years to complete.

A spokesperson for BC’s ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources confirmed this week that any work to address contamination and reclamation of the Tulsequah Chief mine, which has been discharging untreated acid mine drainage into the Tulsequah River at least since 1957, will be part of a multi-year process. The province recently completed a conceptual Closure and Reclamation Plan. Given current data gaps, the plan estimates a phased approach over at least a five-year time span, the spokesperson said. The Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN), Teck Resources and the Department of Natural Resources in Alaska were involved in the joint review and development of remedial options to inform the plan.

This past summer the Province committed $1.575 million to complete early physical work and additional studies necessary to support that plan. The Province worked with TRTFN and the Atlin Taku Economic Limited Partnership (ATELP), the economic development arm of the TRTFN, to mobilize contractors to the site to undertake this work. As of October, work onsite ended for the season. A functional camp was established on site and roads were cleared and repaired. Partial bridge repairs were done, but larger bridges and the airstrip require further engineering work prior to repairs, the spokesperson said.

Two contracts are ongoing: SLR Consulting is conducting an aquatic monitoring program with support from subcontracted TFTFN members and ARK Consulting is assessing the establishment of an interim water treatment plant.

The Province was an active participant in Ontario Superior Court proceedings, which discharged the receiver over Chieftain Metals Inc. and Chieftain Metals Corp., but also granted Chieftain’s secured creditor, West Face Capital Inc. the right to seek reappointment of the receiver on or before Aug. 11, 2022, to provide West Face Capital additional time to seek a purchaser for Chieftain’s assets in the mine.

The spokesperson also said that the Province intends to hold previous owners and operators accountable for site remediation, including Chieftain.

$4.1 Million Awarded for Electronic Monitoring

Grants totaling $4.1 million have been awarded for fisheries electronic monitoring and reporting projects in 14 states, including Alaska, California, Oregon and Washington state, plus Puerto Rico. The grants, which will generate $4.8 million in matching funds, were awarded through the Electronic Monitoring and Reporting Grant Program, a partnership of NFWF, NOAA, the Walton Family Foundation and the Kingfisher Foundation.

Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association received $185,104 to develop improved image quality and cost effectiveness in Alaska’s fixed gear electronic monitoring program. ALFA contributed $213,500, for a total of $398,604 for the project.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife received $85,000 to test electronic monitoring in the Columbia River gillnet and alternative gear fisheries. The state agency matched the grant with another $85,00 for a total of $170,000.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife also received $95,294 for a lite electronic monitoring proof-of-concept for the Washington Dungeness crab fishery. The state agency added $103,114 in matching funds, giving that project a total of $198,408. United Catcher Boats received a grant of $908,882 for scaling up compliance based electronic monitoring in the Alaska Pollock pelagic trawl fishery and evaluating the feasibility and cost efficiency of using electronic monitoring systems on Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska pelagic trawl vessels to monitor compliance with retention regulations. UBC added $1,395,854 in matching funds for a project total of $2,294,716.

The Midwater Trawlers Cooperative received $256,175 to improve electronic monitoring catch handling requirements to be more efficient while still supporting catch accountability and to expand date use for science in the West Coast groundfish fisheries of California, Oregon and Washington state. The trawlers’ cooperative added $350,000 in matching funds for a project total of $606,175.

The program was established in 2015 to advance NOAA’s sustainable fisheries goals to partner with fishermen and other stakeholders, state agencies and Fishery Information Networks to integrate technology into fisheries data collect and observations. To date the program has awarded over $21.5 million to 71 projects in U.S. fisheries and generated a conservation impact of $49.1 million.

Appeal Planned on Approval of Fish Farming Decision for Puget Sound

A Washington Superior Court decision that would allow Cooke Aquaculture to transit its open-water net pens to raise domesticated steelhead instead of Atlantic salmon in Puget Sound will be challenged in a higher court, four environmental groups say. The new lawsuit was announced this week by Wild Fish Conservancy, the Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety and Friends of the Earth.

They are seeking to require the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to conduct a full environmental review of Cooke Aquaculture’s plan. A key concern cited by the plaintiffs in this case is that domesticated fish would potentially harm endangered native Puget Sound steelhead through interbreeding and passing on viruses, parasites and other pathogens.

Cooke Aquaculture, with headquarters in New Brunswick, Canada, produces farm-raised salmon, shrimp, sea bass, and other seafood. In 2017 one of the company’s net-pen structures collapsed in Puget Sound, causing the escape of as many as 273,000 Atlantic salmon. While the escaped farmed fish did not spread in Washington waters, concerns continued that the farmed fish could be a threat to native salmon.

In late November of 2019, Cooke Aquaculture agreed to a settlement of $2.75 million in legal fees and to fund Puget Sound restoration projects, to bring closure to a Clean Water Act lawsuit filed after the net pen collapse.

According to Kurt Beardslee, executive director of Wild Fish Conservancy, “the current deficient review sets an unacceptably low bar for what level of risk and uncertainty are acceptable when it comes to making decisions with the potential to endanger the health of Puget Sound.”

Sophia Ressler, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said the full environmental review is needed to fully understand risks of this project to state waters and endangered wildlife.

During the public comment period in the fall of 2019, thousands of residents of Washington along with various organizations filed their comments with the state agency, in an overwhelming call for the state wildlife department to stop the fish farm proposal and draft a new environmental impact statement for open-water aquaculture net pens.

The state agency chose instead to issue a permit that relied on an analysis of 1990, before Puget Sound steelhead, killer whales and salmon species were listed as threatened or endangered.

Washington is the only state on the Pacific coast that permits these fish farming facilities.

Earlier this year, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced plans to transition all open-water industrial aquaculture in British Columbia to land-based facilities by 2025.

Pebble Limited Partnership Urged to Release Proposed Compensatory Mitigation Plan for Mine

Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both R-Alaska, are urging Northern Dynasty Minerals, in Vancouver, British Columbia, to release to the public their compensatory mitigation plan for the proposed Pebble mine in the Bristol Bay watershed of Southwest Alaska.

Approval of such a plan is required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as Northern Dynasty’s subsidiary, the Pebble Limited Partnership, continues to seek a federal Clean Water Act permit for the mine.

The senators sent a letter to Ron Thiessen, president and CEO of Northern Dynasty Minerals, the parent company of the PLP, urging him to release the plan so that Alaskans, particularly those who live in Bristol Bay, can properly evaluate and understand the plan.

The senators said that while they continue to oppose approval of the project based on the existing record they believe Northern Dynasty must release its proposed plan because a significant portion of the public has lost trust in what its executives actually plan to do and how they expect to be able to win approval from federal regulators. This dynamic was substantially worsened this fall with the release of the so-called ‘Pebble Tapes,’ secret recordings featuring Thiessen himself and a former top executive of the Pebble Limited Partnership video-taped talking to people they thought were potential foreign investors but turned out to be undercover environmental investigators.

Releasing the plan would offer needed transparency about what is at stake with the project, they said. “Alaskans deserve to know what Northern Dynasty proposes to do to compensate for Pebble’s impacts- including what would be required from the state of Alaska, the Alaska State Legislature, and others” they said.

Pebble officials late on Tuesday, Nov. 24, repeated their earlier comment on the issue, saying that once the Corp of Engineers deems the proposed plan complete, it will be posted to their project EIS website for public review.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Seattle’s Elliot Bay Design Group Adds Project Manager, IT Manager

Elliot Bay Design Group has added two members to their team of marine professionals, filling vacancies left by the retirement of other employees.

Joseph Cardella joined EBDG as a project manager based out of their Covington, Louisiana office. He will lead and manage diverse marine projects along the Gulf Coast, in support of clients with their engineering needs.

Cardella has over 13 years of experience as a naval architect ad project engineer in the maritime field. He has design expertise in the offshore maritime industry, developing various mobile offshore drilling units and more recently floating wind turbine concepts for the emerging renewable energy market. Cardella earned a bachelor of science in naval architecture and marine engineering from the University of New Orleans.

Jacob Laduke will join EBDG as the IT manager, based out of the company’s Seattle office. He will manage information technology of the company, while developing strategic objectives, adapting evolving software and hardware and supporting day to day business and application functions. Laduke has been in the IT field for 16 years, most recently with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and brings a wealth of knowledge in computer systems and network administration.

Both men are welcome additions to the team,” said Brian King president of EBDG. “We look forward to learning from them and growing from their experiences.”

Elliot Bay Design Group is an employee-owned firm with offices in Seattle, New Orleans, Ketchikan and New York, providing naval architecture, marine engineering and production support services to owners, operators and shipyards nationwide. The company is known for designs that are better to build and better to operate.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Seafood Industry Wants Robust U.S. Military Presence
in Changing Arctic

Seafood industry officials representing the Pacific Northwest and Alaska say a robust U.S. military presence in the changing Arctic is critical to protecting U.S. fishing interests there.

“Our sovereign right to legally fish within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone must be protected, said Stephanie Madsen, executive director of the At-sea Processors Association in remarks prepared for a virtual congressional subcommittee hearing set for Dec. 8. At 10:30 a.m. Alaska standard time. All Commerce Committee hearings are webcast live on the committee website.

Madsen’s comments are to be delivered to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Security meeting on U.S. Coast Guard capabilities in the Arctic, whose scheduled meeting of Sept. 22 was cancelled.

The hearing comes in the wake of encounters commercial fishing vessels had in late August with Russian military warships and warplanes in the Eastern Bering Sea that left fishing captains and their crews fearing for their physical safety. Such incidents said Madsen also gave rise to whether such incidents might become something of a “new normal” in the changing Arctic.

The fishing industry has for decades been able to operate safely, and with legal certainty in these waters, relying on the USA/USSR Maritime Boundary Agreement agreed to on June 1, 1990.

What, she asks, are U.S. policymakers and military planners doing to safeguard U.S. economic and security interests in this vital region? In her prepared testimony Madsen describes at length incidents in which fishing vessel captains felt they had no choice but to abandon their fishing activities and vacate the area due to harassment from Russian military warships and aircraft.

Brent Paine, executive director of United Catcher Boats, had similar thoughts.

“We really don’t like the Russian military telling us what we can and can’t do,” said Paine. The fleet would have appreciated advance notification from the U.S. Coast Guard that the Russian military had planned military exercises, as well as a U.S. military presence at the time, “to let us know they have our backs.” Paine said he also found the situation a bit scary to know that the Russians were putting so much energy into military exercises in areas where the U.S. fleet is fishing.

According to Sullivan, the National Geospatial-Intelligence agency issued an advance alert of navigational dangers in the Pacific Ocean that provided the coordinates, dates and times for this Russian exercise. Sullivan acknowledged that the information itself was very limited and that such alerts are not typically monitored by the US fishing fleet that operates in the area of the U.S. EZ included in the Russian exercise area.

In response to a question on whether US forces have the equipment, manpower and budget to provide a presence near the fishing fleet during Russian military exercises, Sullivan said the short answer is that not all of the services have what they need to survive and thrive in the Arctic environment though some are better than others.”

PLP Submits Compensatory Mitigation Plan
on Proposed Pebble Mine

Backers of the proposed copper, gold and molybdenum Pebble mine in Southwest Alaska say that they have submitted a compensatory mitigation plan to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, one they feel satisfies requirements for the mine.

According to Ron Thiessen, president and CEO of Northern Dynasty, the mitigation requirement demanded by the USACE set a high bar for offsetting project effects on wetlands and other aquatic features, but that their mitigation plan will reach that bar. “Based on the findings of the final environmental impact statement we already know Pebble can operate safely and reliably, while fully protecting the water, fish and wildlife resources of Bristol Bay,” Thiessen said.

PLP spokesman Mike Heatwole in Anchorage, said that a copy would be posted on the USACE website once it was deemed complete. He declined to provide a copy of the plan submitted.

Mine opponents from Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay, Trout Unlimited and SalmonState voiced criticism of the plan itself and the USACE.

“Any compensatory mitigation plan based on Pebble’s incomplete and inaccurate final environmental impact statement is inherently flawed,” said Katherine Carscallen, director of Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay. “The fact is there is no measure of mitigation that could make up for the permanent destruction of water and wetlands that the Pebble mine would cause to Bristol Bay’s pristine, intact and irreplaceable salmon habitat.” Allowing the permitting process for the mine to proceed without further public input is just more evidence that the USACE is not looking out for Bristol Bay fishermen and communities, she said.

Tim Bristol, executive director of SalmonState, said the PLP plan was another example of the USACE’s history of rubber stamping “mitigation” measures inconsistently and at times going against its own guidelines. Bristol noted that a number of independent mining experts and scientists had identified the final EIS on which the mitigation plan is based as fatally flawed.

The PLP’s mitigation plan “should be dead on arrival,” said Nelli Williams, Alaska director of Trout Unlimited.

Williams said that the Corps’ own final EIS shows that the proposed mine would harm over 191 miles of salmon streams and 4,614 acres of wetlands if phase one of the project advances, and that the majority of those impacts would be permanent.

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