January 26, 2016
Mark Jensen, Mayor, Petersburg Borough, firstname.lastname@example.org,
Cynthia Wallesz, Executive Director, United Southeast Alaska Gillnetters, email@example.com, (208) 995-7400
Heather Hardcastle, Campaign Director, Salmon Beyond Borders, firstname.lastname@example.org,
Frederick Otilius Olsen, Jr., Vice President, Organized Village of Kasaan and Chair, United Tribal Transboundary Mining Work Group, email@example.com, (907) 617-9941
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Alaskans continue to demand international solution for B.C. mines that threaten Southeast Alaska Rivers
Alaska takes first step with transboundary cooperation agreement with B.C.; International Joint Commission involvement and public review still needed
JUNEAU, AK – Southeast Alaska leaders called the State of Alaska’s latest draft Statement of Cooperation (SOC) with British Columbia (B.C.) “an important first step,” intended to increase Alaska’s involvement in upstream B.C. mine review processes. The new version of the SOC specifically states that the document itself is not intended to substitute for involvement of the International Joint Commission (IJC).
“We are encouraged to see the Walker administration has improved on the first draft of the SOC, particularly their recognition the SOC is limited in its ability to protect our waters and fisheries here in Alaska and in no way rejects federal government involvement through the Boundary Waters Treaty and the IJC. Leaving open the IJC option is the recognition we’ve been seeking,” said Petersburg mayor Mark Jensen.
“Federal involvement through the Boundary Waters Treaty is the only way to provide for binding and enforceable regulations and financial assurances that B.C.’s industrial development in the watersheds of the transboundary rivers will not harm Alaska’s clean water and healthy fisheries that are the economic lifeblood of Petersburg and all of Southeast Alaska. We are definitely not an anti-mining community and recognize the need for a viable mining industry but, as with any resource development industry, it needs to be done correctly and safely.”
Alaska tribal citizens and stakeholders continue to call on the U.S. Department of State to take action under the Boundary Waters Treaty to safeguard Alaska fisheries and way of life downstream from large-scale Canadian mining development, and call for a public review process before Alaska and B.C. finalize the SOC.
“As a lifelong fisherman, I appreciate the State of Alaska working to ensure the clean water and healthy wild salmon runs of the Taku, Stikine and Unuk Rivers are protected. However, with Alaska bearing all the risk and none of the reward from this development, there is still much work to be done at the federal level in both countries to ensure the protections we need are secured and enforceable,” said Heather Hardcastle, campaign director of Salmon Beyond Borders. “We are hopeful Alaska's congressional delegation will help Alaskans by ensuring the federal governments become involved. This dual-track approach is the best way to ensure our downstream interests are protected.”
The first draft of the SOC was made public in mid-November. About a dozen comments were submitted, including a letter written by the Salmon Beyond Borders campaign signed by over 100 organizations, businesses and individuals. A revised draft was distributed by the State on January 21. The document now addresses the risks of large tailings dams and recognizes the need for transparency. However, the SOC still needs significant improvement in areas such as financial assurances, best practices and public participation.
“The new draft SOC is certainly better and we appreciate being asked to comment but it needs to provide financial assurances to Alaskans that we will be compensated for any damage to our water quality and fisheries,” said Cynthia Wallesz, executive director of United Southeast Alaska Gillnetters. “In the spirit of a transparent public process, we urge the Walker Administration to hold a formal comment period, including public hearings, so the final SOC language can be publicly vetted.”
Ten or more large-scale mines are in various stages of review, development or operation in Northwest B.C. in or near the headwaters of the Taku, Stikine and Unuk Rivers. The Walker Administration’s engagement with B.C. comes in response to concerns raised by Southeast Alaskans across the social and political spectrum about the potential threats these mines pose to Alaska’s clean water and existing billion-dollar fisheries. This issue, so important to Southeast Alaskans, is starting to receive attention across the country, including recent coverage in theThe New York Times.
"We thank Alaska's Governor for listening to the public. The edited SOC recognizes the scope of State and Provincial agreements is limited and we still need the International Joint Commission,” said Frederick Olsen, Jr., Vice President of the Organized Village of Kasaan and Chair of the United Tribal Transboundary Mining Work Group. “We need cooperation with the Federal governments and sovereign Tribal governments. Our international issue requires an international solution.”
Salmon Beyond Borders is a campaign driven by sport and commercial fishermen, community leaders, Tribal and First Nations members, tourism and recreation business owners and concerned citizens united across the Alaska/British Columbia border to sustain our transboundary salmon rivers, jobs and way of life. Visit us online atsalmonbeyondborders.org and find us on Facebook and Twitter.