Reps Gara and Ortiz Call on the Department of Natural Resources to Protect the Chuitna River

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 9, 2015

JUNEAU-Today, Representatives Les Gara (D-Anchorage) and Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan) called on the State to prevent the destruction of wild salmon spawning and rearing waters on the prized Chuitna River near Tyonek.  The Canadian company PacRim Coal proposes to dredge and dewater an 11 mile stretch of the Middle Fork of the Chuitna River.  PacRim Coal plans to sell the coal from the Chuitna River streambed to China. 

“It’s the 21st century, and we shouldn’t destroy salmon streams using 19th Century mining practices,” said Rep. Gara.  “Fishing streams aren’t like Doritos.  You can’t just make more.”

Rep. Gara is an avid fisherman who has written articles for Fish Alaska Magazine, Alaska Magazine and other fishing publications.  Rep. Gara has co-authored a letter that has been sent to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources outlining his opposition to the proposed coal mine and calling on the Department to honor an in-stream flow application submitted by the Chuitna Citizens Coalition.

“We should have clean water for salmon, and save water for salmon,” said Chuitna Citizens Coalition member Judy Heilman from Beluga.

PacRim Coal has proposed to “rebuild” the Middle Fork of the Chuitna River in 30 years after dredging it.  Currently, there is an administrative proceeding before the State Department of Natural Resources where a coalition of fishermen, local residents and others have applied to prevent the dewatering and dredging of the stream. 

“The Middle Fork is especially important wild silver salmon habitat,” said Rep. Dan Ortiz.  “Dredging this stream will damage fishing waters that Alaskans, especially residents of Tyonek and nearby Beluga, prize for food and recreation.”

The Native Village of Tyonek and an overwhelming majority of area residents are opposing the Chuitna Mine project in an effort to protect this fishing stream.  However, the local village native corporation has taken a stand that contravenes their wishes.

The Alaska Department of Natural Resources is considering a request by the Chuitna Citizens Coalition to retain needed water for salmon in the Middle Fork of the Chuitna River.

For additional information contact Judy Heilman with the Chuitna Citizens Coalition at (907) 583-2277.

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