A salmon-rich river in Alaska’s Upper Cook Inlet that would be impacted by development of a proposed coal mine is now listed among the nation’s most endangered waterways.
The national non-profit conservation organization American Rivers on April 7 listed the Chuitna River, which flows from the base of the Alaska Range to Cook Inlet, as endangered by the coal strip mine that PacRim Coal, a Delaware –based corporation.
And on the heels of that announcement, the Chuitna Citizens Coalition delivered more than 4,800 comment cards to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources office in Anchorage in favor of keeping water as it is in the Chuitna River and its tributaries, to protect fish habitat. The river supports all five species of Pacific salmon, Dolly Varden and trout.
The proposed mine site lies 12 miles northwest of the Native village of Tyonek and 45 miles west of Anchorage.
Comments on whether the state should proceed with permitting the project or not are being accepted through 5 p.m. on April 9 and may be emailed to Kimberly.firstname.lastname@example.org
PacRim Coal, which holds a state lease to thousands of acres of Alaska Mental Health LandTrust property, contends that the surface coal mine has the potential for recovery of an estimated 300 million tons of sub-bituminous ultra low sulfur coal. The company PacRim notes on its website that its investment in the project is expected to exceed $600 million, create up to 500 direct jobs during construction and up to 350 full time jobs during the operating life of the mine, plus some 1,200 indirect jobs. And, the company estimates, sale of the coal will generate production royalties to the Alaska Mental Health Land Trust of over $300 million.
Those numbers do not impress commercial fishermen like Terry Jorgensen, who setnets near the mouth of the Chuitna River. “Trading a renewable resource for coal is a short-sighted and dangerous precedent that threatens to put commercial fishermen statewide out of work,” Jorgensen said.
And, said Judy Heilman, president of the Chuitna Citizens Coalition, “to think of strip mining through the river and trading our Alaskan way of life to send coal to China brings tears to my eyes.”
A short video showcasing the river’s values is online at https://vimeo.com/119613758
Information on the proposed mine from PacRim’s perspective is at www.chuitnacoalproject.com