Two organizations opposed to surface coal mining operations in Alaska salmon streams have asked for regulatory changes to protect anadromous waterways from surface coal mining, but the state contends existing regulations are sufficient.
The request in mid-March came from Trustees for Alaska, which filed a legal petition on behalf of Cook Inletkeeper, the Chuitna Citizens Coalition United Cook Inlet Drift Association, and Northern District Setnetters Association of Cook Inlet.
The petition had 6,603 signatures, 6,003 of them from Alaska, and the rest from more than two-dozen states, Canada, Europe and Asia.
Alaska's Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell said in a letter to Trustees for Alaska on April 12 that her agency does not see a need to add to existing regulations a proposed section specifically prohibiting approval of surface coal mining operations within a catalogued anadromous water body. Her agency already has the authority to prohibit an activity in a catalogued anadromous water body if plans and specifications for the activity are deemed insufficient for the proper protection of fish and game, she said. Campbell also nixed proposed regulations to establish a public notice and public comment process for the Division of Habitat permit applications and decisions under the Anadromous Fish Act. She said the state’s constitution requires prior public notice only for disposals or leases of state lands, or interests therein. The law does not require nor provide for public notice prior to the activities authorized under that statute, she said.
Campbell’s response to the legal petition came on the same day as Gov. Sean Parnell signed legislation backed by the Alaska Miners Association and the Council of Alaska Producers establishing May 10 as Alaska Mining Day.
Commercial, sport and subsistence fish harvesters are also at odds with another proposed copper, gold and molybdenum mine, which would be built at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed in Southwest Alaska.
The public comment period has been extended through May 6 for the public review draft on reclassification and plan amendment to the 2005 Bristol Bay Area Plan, which would establish new areas classified as wildlife habitat or reclassify current areas to the co-classifications of wildlife habitat and public recreation. More information is online at http://aws.state.ak.us/OnlinePublicNotices/Notices/View.aspx?id=166223
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