Dunleavy acknowledges transboundary mines threat

Next meeting of bilateral working group set for June 18

Southeast Alaska entities concerned about the potential threat to salmon habitat from British Columbia’s transboundary mines are applauding Gov. Mike Dunleavy for taking the first step toward addressing the issue.

“We look forward to working with the administration toward solutions that will alleviate the threat of B.C.’s wet tailings dams – mine waste dumps – near shared salmon rivers and to ensure that in the event of a disaster, B.C. mining companies, not Alaskans, pay for cleanup and damages,” said Jill Weitz, campaign director for Salmon Beyond Borders.

The note of optimism on May 9 came in the wake of Dunleavy’s response to a letter signed by 22 state legislators calling on the governor to defend Alaska’s resources from potential impacts of abandoned, operating and future large-scale British Columbia mines located near the headwaters of the Taku, Stikine and Unuk rivers in Southeast Alaska.

Legislators told Dunleavy in an April 9 letter that these world-class salmon rivers that originate in northwest British Columbia and flow into Southeast Alaska could suffer permanent adverse impact from these open-pit and underground metal mines without proper management regulations in place.

“These rivers have been centers of culture, commerce and biodiversity for thousands of years, producing 80 percent of Southeast Alaska king salmon,” the legislators wrote. “They contribute $48 million annually to the Alaska economy, and are integral to the overall $1 million annual salmon fishing industry and the $1 billion annual visitor industry of Southeast Alaska.”

The legislators urged Dunleavy to partner with other states who share a border with British Columbia in a unified call to the State Department to defend U.S. interests and resources.

Dunleavy responded on May 5, telling Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon that his administration recognizes the progress made to date in talks with British Columbia and would continue to look for ways to best protect the state’s natural resources and environment.

The governor noted that there are director level communications between the state’s Natural Resources, Environmental Conservation, Fish and Game, Transportation and Public Facilities agencies and their provincial counterparts on a monthly basis.

The next meeting of the Bilateral Working Group of Protection of Transboundary Waters, which is working under a memorandum of understanding and cooperation, is set for June 18.

Salmon Beyond Borders is a campaign driven by sport and commercial fishermen, community leaders, tourism and recreation business owners and concerned citizens, in collaboration with tribes and First Nations to defend and sustain transboundary rivers, jobs and their way of life.