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July 30, 2014

Chuitna Coal Hearing in Kenai Draws a Crowd (updated*)

*A little episode of premature posting. All photos are now here.

The “Magic Bus” pulled out of the parking lot in midtown Anchorage packed to the gunwales. People came out on a weekday evening, with the threat of an impending blizzard in Turnagain Pass, knowing they wouldn’t be home until well after midnight, to give public testimony on an issue that will impact every Alaskan, and that most have never heard of. Despite the fact that the specific project addressed by this petition is across Cook Inlet, and local residents of the area only amount to a couple hundred, the ramifications are fairly staggering.

Never before has there been a resource development project that would literally bulldoze its way right through a healthy productive salmon stream. The Chuitna Coal project is set to do just that, wiping out eleven miles of pristine salmon habitat to a depth of 350 feet in its first phase of operation. There is no law against doing this, and if Pac-Rim gets its way with this one, others will surely follow, and others after that. Precedent can be a dangerous thing.

No worries, says Pac-Rim. After eight years of mining, they’re going to put it all back together. They’ll just save the topsoil, and put it back when they’re done. It’ll be just as good as it was before, if not better. What they don’t say is that impacts to the watershed from the mining activities not only change the physical surroundings, but the chemical, hydrologic, microbiological and geological processes that make a salmon stream possible in the first place. It’s not about digging a stream channel, it’s about an ecosystem.

Restoration is what has to happen in order for the project to proceed in these designated areas that buttress the Chuit River and Middle Creek. Unless they can be sure of that reclamation is possible, the DNR can designate a site as “unsuitable” for surface coal mining. This designation would mean a buffer of 150 feet on either side of the Chuit River, and 100 feet on either side of its tributaries. Many would argue that this measure still does not go far enough to protect the watershed, but it’s better than nothing.

Chuitna Citizens Coalition, and Cook Inletkeeper have submitted a petition to the DNR which, if successful would result in an “unsuitable” for coal strip mining designation for the land immediately surrounding the salmon-filled Chuit River and its tributaries. It sounds like a no-brainer, but we’ve learned before that sometimes that doesn’t mean much.

As it stands now, Pac-Rim Coal, in only the first phase of a massive project that will ultimately if successful affect more than 20,000 acres of wetlands, salmon streams, coastal area, and woodlands. The populated areas which stand at the center of the coal bullseye are the villages of Beluga and Tyonek, a mere 45 miles from downtown Anchorage. The current plan would not only dig up the stream, but would see more than 7 million gallons of mine waste per day pumped into the 30-foot wide Chuit River, which is home to all five species of Alaska salmon.

~The Magic Bus takes a pit stop on the three hour drive to Kenai

Only one public hearing was planned to address the petition, and it was not lost on those of us who took an entire day to make this pilgrimage, that it had been planned on a weeknight, and a three hour drive from Anchorage. There were reportedly eight people from the Native village of Tyonek who had planned to testify, but were unable to fly in due to inclement weather. The people of Tyonek arguably have the most to lose – commercial fishing, subsistence food, and a culture and way of life they have enjoyed in that very place for thousands of years. Another hearing in Tyonek is being discussed, and counsel for the organizations who initiated the petition stated that if it could be done in a timely manner – in the next couple weeks – they would not object to the delay.

Those planning to testify, or just to listen, filed in to the Challenger Learning Center and filled the room. To turn out 150 people or more in this venue, at this time, was encouraging for those who came to speak their mind and support the Unsuitable Lands designation.

Running the meeting were Russell Kirkham, the Project Manager for the Alaska Coal Regulatory Program, and Rick Fredrickson, Mine Chief for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Both men sat behind a table at the front of the room, with a projected image of the area in question on a screen behind them, a podium with a microphone in front of them for those who had come to testify.

After a brief introduction in which he told us that “the purpose of the petition is to request to designate water bodies within the watershed as unsuitable for surface coal mining,” Kirkham brought out the list of names of those who had signed up to testify. I started keeping count on a piece of scrap paper, how many were testifying yes, to designate the land unsuitable, and how many were testifying no. It became clear after not too long a time that this type of tally was not necessary. People showed up for fish, not coal, and they came from Kenai, Soldotna, Anchorage, Nikiski, Homer, Kasilof, Wasilla, Palmer, Dillingham, Seward, Beluga, Sterling, Anchor Point, Chickaloon and Fairbanks to do it.

One after another they came: “My grandfather was a coal miner in Southern Missouri. Acidification killed all the lakes.” “Eventually the coal will be gone, and the fish will be gone. We need fish more than we need coal.” “Governor Parnell said he won’t trade one resource for another. We need to hold him accountable for that.”

Enthusiastic applause followed every testimonial, despite Kirkham’s early request to hold the applause to the end. Emotions ran the gamut – some were outraged that we even needed to have the discussion because it seemed to them so obvious that mining in these areas is wrong. Others had an air of almost desperation. Some were all facts and figures and science. An elderly resident of Beluga, voice cracking, almost broke down in tears talking about how her grandchildren and great grandchildren might have no river to fish. And there was a sentiment of anger, that the DNR and the state government were not listening to the people, but to the special interests of large corporations who do not have Alaskans’ best interest at heart.

A total of 56 people had the opportunity to speak their piece, and they all came down on the side of the unsuitable designation, except one. “I know what it’s like to be the unpopular one in the room,” said Dan Graham, the Project Director for the Chuitna Coal project. He turned increasingly red as he gave his statement with all eyes upon him, and only a few feet away from a row of residents of Beluga, which will be directly affected by the mine. He tried to assure the room that if the project couldn’t be done with the guarantee that the environment could be restored, then it wouldn’t happen. Some of the audience clapped at the statement, and were met with a stern, “Let the man talk” from Frederickson. “Not on my watch,” the project manager continued. Ultimately, the public was having none of it. When he finished, one person clapped tentatively. The rest of the room remained stone silent, boring holes in the back of his head as he returned to his seat. Later several of those testifying rebuked him directly in their comments.

Three and a half hours later, all those who wished to speak had spoken. Ed Sandberg from Sterling, the last person to testify, asked Kirkham and Frederickson, “I’d like to know what you’re going to take back to DNR?” “We’ll take the message back, for sure,” said Frederickson, which didn’t set anyone’s mind at ease.

The voices of Alaskans were heard – fishermen, fisherwomen, educators, scientists, sportsmen, conservationists, residents of the affected area, and those who realize that the “affected area” is all of us. What will happen now is anyone’s guess. The Unsuitable Lands designation rests in the hands of the Department of Natural Resources under new Commissioner Dan Sullivan.

Here is some of what was said by those he is supposed to represent:

John, Fisherman
Fish have been there for a long time, and have been providing for people. My vote is for the fish. If you wanted to find a place not to put a coal mine, I say go there. We have five species of salmon. It’s been forever in the past, and it could be forever in the future. They won’t be here 50 years from now when we have a stinkin’ hole in the ground.


Paul
I don’t know why we’re here. We’ve had this discussion on this project in many forms in many different ways. There is n’t anything that recommendes this project for the state its people or the environment.

Cathy, Science teacher in Kenai.

Once you damage an ecosystem, you can’t get it back again. Everything is part of nature’s intricate plan. Once you take the coal out, you change everything. The carbon footprint just to run the mine is going to put half a billion tons of co2 in the air every year. The coal after it’s mined will be burned. People are investing millions of dollars in these coal mines when we have other options available. We need to put money into clean energy.

Russ, Seward
If ever there was a proposed project unsuitable for this site, this is it. Everyone is entitled to clean air and water. The quality of life in Beluga and Tyonek would forever be diminished.

Pete from Homer, small charter business owner
My family relies on salmon as an important part of their diet. A strip coal mine anywhere near a salmon stream is reprehensible. This salmon stream and all salmon streams must be designated unsuitable.

Jim, Homer
Only God would be capable of reproducing 11 miles of salmon stream and all its fixings, and it might even take him some time. What would be the dollar value of the salmon in Middle Creek for the next 10,000 years?

Tom from Homer, Commercial Fisherman
I use the area of cook inlet for commercial fishing, and personal use for hunting and fishing. I think this is wrong on every level. The Chuitna is a major producer of king salmon on Cook Inlet. This is the first time that we are proposing to destroy a salmon stream in Alaska, and will set a dangerous precedent. I’d like to see this not happen.

Sonia from Homer
I was really unhappy to get drug out of my warm house tonight to talk about something that should be really obvious. Let’s not trade one resource for another.

Kevin from Homer
Wild salmon streams cannot be artificially built. It’s not like artificial snow. You just can’t make it.

Steve, Kasilof
How can they possibly keep a promise like replacing a salmon stream? Human stewardship is our duty. I’m damned ashamed that management is even considering this, and that’s my thought on this.

Mark, Soldotna Photo brown hat
I’ve guided and fished the Chuit for the last two decades.
King salmon only occur in a small handful of rivers in this region. To call this region “fragile” is an understatement. We cannot allow wild salmon populations to be exchanged for irresponsible resource development.

Andre
Our federal, state and local agencies with huge budgets and hundreds of employees have the duty and responsibility to guard alaska’s treasures are doing their job poorly. If we fail in our duty, this will spell the end to our way of life and the demise of our beautiful state of AK. Our pristine habitats are being destroyed in pursuit of coal.

Paula, Anchorage
I’m interested in this issue because I’m a sports fisherwoman. I have flown to Beluga and fished in this watershed. Alaska’s economy is a good reason to support the petition and to actually stop mining in salmon habitat. Commercial fishing for salmin in Cook Inlet had an economic impact of 98 million and employed 1000 people. Sport fishing brought in 730 million and created 8000 jobs. This does not include fed state and local taxes generated from the fishery. This revenue stream can go on indefinitely, but it’s only if we take care of this resource. If you do risk/benefit analysis on this proposal, it doesn’t pencil out. We are going to export our coal to China and get it sent back as mercury in our fish.

Lindsey, Anchorage
It was really an effort to come here. I moved to Alaska just about a year ago and was introduced to Alaska’s wild salmon. The proposal seems outrageous to consider. The precedent would lead to unthinkable destruction later on. We need to put Alaska first.

Petla, Dillingham
In Dillingham we’re working on trying to stop Pebble Mine. Our watersheds are beautiful, our people are beautiful and we are worthy of love and respect. I don’t see any help coming through the DNR. We can only be as healthy as our land. Alaska is the largest fishery on earth. It is us. We are from the salmon. Our elders don’t deserve the fear the mining companies put in our heart. I would like to see the state of Alaska stand with us on this issue.

Becky, Anchorage
Middle creek produces 20% of the silver salmon of the entire Chuit watershed. I prefer my salmon wild.

Lysa, Anchorage
I have a Masters Degree in public health. Salmon is a critical part of many of our communities.

Megan, Anchorage
I am here representing Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA) as a staff member. Teens in our program this year have created a campaign to celebrate and protect wild Alaska salmon. Youth from Togiak, Yakutat, Emmonak, Kotlik, Bethel, Fairbanks, and Palmer have written a resolution. Signed by 50 teens from 13 other communities. The wild seafood industry employs the highest number of Alaska workers. Alaska is the last stronghold of wild salmon in the world. We ask our leaders to preserve and protect the habitat and integrity of Alaska salmon against irreversible harm.

Henry, Palmer
Worked on the Exxon Valdez cleanup. I don’t want to see Alaska’s renewable sustainable resources destroyed by industrial greed. I also don’t want to eat farmed fish. If this destruction of salmon habitat is not stopped here and now there will be no more safe to eat salmon in Alaska. It’s like those ‘Do not Trash Alaska’ road sides. This is one of the worst examples of vandalism, trashing that I can think of.

Nils from the Eyak Preservation Council in Cordova dedicated to preserving wild salmon habitat and way of life.
Hearings like these are needed and there should be more in more populated and easy to access places. I can only reiterate what everyone seems to be saying. If this mine is allowed to continue, the DNR will essentially be communicating that profit from destroying the environment is more importand that profit derived from beautiful sustainable natural resource.

Duane, Beluga

I built a house over there I’ve been over there for 30 plus years, and there’s no doubt in my mind that this coal mine should not go forward. I’m not really a speaker so you’ll have to bear with me. The salmon is the key but there are related items. They’re going to pump 7 million gallons per day into the inlet. The Chuit river is approximately 30 feet across. I can wade across it. When they got ready to flush the grand canyon, they used less than 7 million gallons, but they’re going to put that through the Chuit every single day. I first thought we could coexist over there, but after attending a bunch of meetings I’ve changed my mind.

Liz, Anchorage
Restoration of the Chuit watershed is physically impossible. The science is clear. Alaskans have spoken.

Linda, Anchor Point
It’s inconceivable irresponsible and unintelligent to even consider destroying an area like this and to think you can put it back together again. Our water systems have become polluted and our rivers haven’t produced what they have in the past. I don’t think we are managing our resources the way we should. This scares a lot of people.

Roland, Kasilof
United Fisherman of Alaska, Board of Directors.
Represents 38 commercial fishing organizations and 12,000 families.
Resolution in opposition to the mine as the first designated elimination of salmon habitat

Also from the United Cook Inlet Drift Association, representing 500 commercial fishing families in the Cook Inlet area. We rely on five species of salmon and healthy habitat.
These proposed buffers will be inadequate to preserve the salmon. We strongly oppose the mine.

Dennis Gann, Cook Inletkeeper Anchorage
At least 8 members of the village of Tyonek were coming to testify, but could not make it due to bad weather. I was asked to read a letter. This coal mine would destroy valuable fish, wildlife and lands. Tyonek relies heavily on subsistence, personal use and commercial fishing. 98% of the population opposes it for development. Need to protect a traditional way of life. In addition to salmon, the projected dock wil adversely affect the already endangered beluga whale and steller sea lion.

Jeanne, Homer
This mine would set a really bad precedent.

Judy Heilman, Beluga

Seeing all of you here makes me cry. Thank you. When we started this fight, we thought we were alone. We have to keep fighting until we have laws preventing mining through our salmon streams. If this is permitted it won’t be just in our back yard, it will be in every back yard in the state. We have to change our ways. We can’t go forward with what we are doing today.

Larry Heilman, Beluga
Representing Tyonek fish and game advisory committee.
Pointed at map and explained how “One project is going to destroy the whole ecosystem.”

Kirby, Palmer
VP Castle Mountain coalition
To deny this petition would be a grave mistake. Read a passage from a book “Fish – The Future of the Last Great Food”
He raised the issue of coal burning causing ocean acidification. People say “Something must have happened in the ocean” when salmon runs fail to appear. It’s up to us to force these guys to make the right decision.

Jedediah Smith
Alaska needs economic diversity. I grew up in the southwest United States, in former mining area. Do you know what’s there now? Ghost towns.

Naomi, Anchorage
Educator
I’m invested in teaching stewardship. It’s important to protect renewable resources, and to nurture the Chuit lands and habitats. Our children deserve the legacy of wild lands and fish. Chief Seattle said, “The earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth.”

Austin Williams
Legal Counsel for Chuitna Citizens Coalition and Cook Inletkeeper
The Chuit is one of the last rivers in the area with a significant number of king salmon returns. It supports 2 communities – Beluga and Tyonek. The area is too important to sacrifice. We encourage DNR to hold a hearing in Tyonek. If the meeting could be held in the next couple weeks, we would agree to postpone deadlines for a decision.

Bob Shavelson
Executive Director, Cook Inletkeeper
All Alaskans have a fundamental constitutional right to clean water and healthy salmon, and with those rights comes the obligation to manage and protect them for current and future generations. Coal strip mining does not protect those resources. John Shively, who previously served as the DNR Commissioner and now represents the corporations looking to develop the Pebble Mine, has made the point several times that “Fishermen kill more fish than mines do.” And of course, all of us who fish, kill fish. But that’s not the point.; the point is that in the case of the Chuitna project, we’re not only killing wild Alaska salmon, but we’re also killing their fish habitat. We’re killing the goose that lays the golden egg. This is a historic precedent and if DNR disallows this petition, it would be the first time in state history a large strip mine would be permitted to mine completely through a salmon stream. If it happens here in Cook Inlet - in Anchorage’s back yard, the population center of our state - it can happen anywhere.  It’s clear that all eyes are on DNR to see if you will allow mining through an Alaskan salmon stream. This hearing has to be about science and facts.

Dan, Kenai Peninsula, Educator

(Brought out his mandolin, and played a great tongue-in-cheek song about coal mining and salmon)

Let’s make a mine and kill all the fish
We don’t care, we’re getting rich
You can take my line, you can take my pole
Cause there ain’t no salmon, just a great big hole

Dave Atchinson
Renewable Resources Coalition
This is only the beginning and exactly what happened in the lower 48. There are 350 salmon streams in the PNW that are no longer salmon streams. That means 350 genetically unique strains of wild salmon that are no longer with us. You don’t have to look far to see what’s going to happen in Alaska. We can’t let it happen. Salmon is worth much more as an intact resource than a memory.

Dan Graham
Project Manager for proposed chitna coal project, and the only voice in support of the project
Public review will properly occur at a future date. At that time the details of our projects will be discussed and some of the myths will be dispelled. When that time comes we agree with everyone in this room that proposed operations need a measure of increased scrutiny, especially when salmon are involved. Successful mine operation and healthy fish are not mutually exclusive. We’ve been focusing on restoring fish habitats, and have provided DNR with a subset of examples for their consideration. We will reengage with groups to finalize the design, and the plan to restore the fish habitat. We are available to speak with those constituents who want to engage in constructive dialog on this issue. We want to be “environmental good citizens.”

Ron Burnett
Beluga homeowner
You can’t reclaim something you destroy.
This is a bad project. (Indicating those in the room) We’re the only reason why this isn’t going on today, and why there are still fish in the Chuit River. There is no more Chuitna river if this happens. How many of us will be alive in 75 years? How many Alaskans are going to be hired for this project? I asked and they told me,“Probably none.” This is the worst possible place you could put a coal mine. If they pump it down 400 feet they’re going to drain my well and my neighbors’ wells.

Kendra, Chickaloon
Fisherwoman
This is a wetland, and I think this is the biggest concern. I have not seen an example anywhere of where any kind of a fen or bog or marsh or wetland can be dug up to hundreds of feet below the gound surface and create the premining ecology of that area. Show me an example. Where’s the beef?

Helen, Beluga

Lived here for 60 years since 1951. I bought a house in Beluga. I don’t think they should have that coal min there at all… it would be terrible for our health, and it would ruin the salmon stream. I am very much opposed. I have all my grandkids and great grandkids come over there. And if it goes that way, with all the coal dust… it would be so bad.

Heather, Wasilla
Mat Valley coalition, Friends of Mat Su, Sierra Club and others
Coal filters our water and watersheds. For the past 100 years underground coal mines in the Mat valley have destroyed vast areas. Jonesville and Wishbone Hill areas have been tried to be reclaimed. Reclaimed Moose Creek has not recovered 100 years later. My grandfather is in the coal miners hall of fame. Coal killed him and his friends. He would not support this. Millions of dollars and a hundred years cannot restore a wild salmon population.

Clark, 45-year Alaska resident
Strongly opposed to this, Pebble, and Donlin Creek mine. Environmental, economic problems… and ethics. Shocked by scope and scale of Pebble Mine. Lived in Nondalton. Not opposed to mining, but opposed to mines on a scale like this that would destroy whole ecosystems. More will come and devastate large portions of the state. I assumed that organizations like DNR and DEC would be looking out for all the citizens of the state of Alaska. I was naïve.  I think that these sorts of project are wrong. Commercial fisherman and pilots have a “rule of three.” If there are 3 things against you flying into a mountain pass or out commercial fishing then you don’t do them. We have three. When agencies are staffed with industry insiders people worry what the outcome might be. There has never been a large scale mine that HASn’t been permitted in Alaska. DNR is understaffed and it would take legislative action to remedy that. A lot of people worry like I do that the game is rigged in favor of the industries. Ultimately they are bound as corporations to generate a profit. Here is a list of salmon streams that have been destroyed in the lower 48. (Rolls long paper list on the floor) The people that make these decisions will be judged by history, and if they don’t listen to science and the people of Alaska they will be judged very harshly.

Debbie, Palmer

Environmental toxicologist. I have 25 years experience in site remediation. During this time I have never seen a project of this magnitude that has been successfully restored and reclaimed. To assume we can go in, dig down 350 feel, remove soil, disturb the hydrology and the microbiology of the system and then com in and restore them is naïve. There is no data that supports the magnitude and the depth of this project. It will be compromised. It will not be what it is. So if it is allowed to go forward we will see the destruction, the devastation of this stream and these wetlands. I urge you, DNR, to also adopt this designation.

Randy, Kenai

Disappointed in Mayor Carey leaving so soon.  Belugas will recover only if human impact is limited. It took God millions of years to create the Chuitna. What makes Pac Rim think they can restore it in a couple years. There are 180 residents in Tyonek and they will not budge an inch. I helped put mayor Carey in office, and he should have been in this meeting until everybody left, and he heard what everyone had to say.

Rob, Nikiski – photo
Coal is dirty at both ends. Outside politicians wooing our politicians with promises of economic opportunity is dirty.

Brenda
EP coordination for Indian tribe
DNR commissioner – Do your job! Do your job in the best interest of Alaskans. We need you to protect our resources. You will never get rid of us – the people who are willing to fight against the destruction of our habitat and our way of life.

Hugh, Soldotna
Chemist
I am terribly concerned about the mercury that is present in coal and what happens to that mercury when it’s disturbed, and the poisoning that takes place of the stream and the fish and the people that eat that fish.

Marjorie, Soldotna
Pac-Rim stockholders and short term jobs stand to benefit. Alaska sees itself as independent pioneers and we got away with a lot for many years because there weren’t many of us. It is time for Alaska to have some rules. I would like to see us take this energy that we have and the experitise and planning and goals and money and get serious about renewables, and be pioneers with renewables.

George, Kenai

I had a great speech. I wish I’d have been here first but everyone said what I was going to say. DNR, you’ve got to listen to what we’re telling you. I don’t eat coal, I eat salmon. Our elected officials don’t listen to us anymore. We’re tired of this stuff with outside interest groups coming up here destroying our wildlife and our habitat. If everybody in this room would call the governor and Commissioner Sullivan, that’s more people who’s going to get noticed. It’s too bad that these people have to take time out to take time to address this ridiculous matter. It’s sad it’s gone this far. I hope you go back there and tell him what’s going on here.

Deb, Kenai
Tribal member
I have fished this land for as long as I can remember but I started reading about the Chuitna river and the Pac-Rim project, and I don’t even know why we’re here. It’s ridiculous why anyone would consider mining through a salmon stream. Once you take the coal out, there’s no filter. You can’t put it back, it’s impossible. This is ridiculous. You know it and I know it. We should never trade our salmon for that crap. I’m completely opposed.

Ed, Sterling
It’s unconscionable we are even considering this project. Put me on the record.

Comments

comments

Comments
47 Responses to “Chuitna Coal Hearing in Kenai Draws a Crowd (updated*)”
  1. Amanda says:

    It should not be about digging a stream channel, it should be about the ecosystem.

  2. Dave B says:

    Great reporting Jeanne! Sorry I missed it, but glad I had already emailed my comments and ‘cc’ my state legislators.

  3. scout says:

    “Alaskan coal mine fined $60,000 for Clean Water Act violations”
    Friday, January 21, 2011

    “HEALY, ALASKA — The operator of a coal mine near Healy, Alaska, has agreed to pay a $60,000 fine for Clean Water Act violations, according to a press release.

    The Usibelli Coal Mine had 11 unpermitted discharges into the Nenana River, Hoseanna Creek, Sanderson Creek and Francis Creek between April 2007 and July 2010.

    During that time, the mine also had 10 violations of their discharge permit limits, the release stated.
    “Many of these discharges could have been minimized or avoided,” said Edward Kowalski, director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Regional Office of Compliance and Enforcement. “By simply using and maintaining best management practices, we believe this penalty could have been avoided. Mining responsibly means making water quality protection a top priority.””

  4. just sayin' says:

    My heartfelt thankyous to all who write and speak and stand up for what is righteous. These issues should be used by educators as spring boards to teach our young people the true value of where and how we live, and not necessarily for monetary reasons. “Observe and simplify, the name of the game, is Living with nature and loving the same, the first rule, of course, is incredibly plain, if nobody profits, everyone gains.”

  5. Mary says:

    Gentleman from Dillingham (missed his name)
    That’s my husband; his name is Petla Noden. It appears in the cutline of the photo of him testifying that was published online in the Peninsula Clarion. He’s also a UAA student.

  6. Susabelle says:

    Oh, I hope and pray that the project does not happen. I live in up state NY and have seen how greed and empty promises rape the eco system. Just look at Pennsylvania and Kentucky! I know for a fact that what has and is happening down here caused many of your residents to move to a place where it is clean and beautiful. This coal project is just one step toward the destruction of your environment. Restoration after the fact…BUNK! I have seen how that works first hand. What happens up there impacts down here. Have you ever eaten farm raised salmon? It tastes like rancid fat. How sad this issue has to be delt with. I wish you good luck. I did write to Kirkham..Hope it helpsI LOVE ALASKA!!!!Can’t wait to come back.

  7. jimzmum says:

    Thank you, AKM.

  8. endofroader says:

    It is time for the residents of an area to have more control over their own back yards. Usually developments like this profit a few through jobs and profit the corporation and politicians a lot. The locals at the end of the job are left with the mess and long term impacts to deal with. No matter how the corporations claim they will clean it up, they very rarely do. Exon polluted PWS and swore they would clean it up, then fought to keep from paying in courts for 20 years, never did clean it all up , and never paid what they should have. You can’t believe what these companies say they will do or the promises they make. Keep the fish…. we know they profit all

  9. Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

    Yes a good report by AKM. Took a bit of work I would say.

    Nicely done as well, objective, but condensed.

    The pity is this, none of this testimony can be quatified in any way to rebut the
    no doubt carefully formulated claims by the mining company that they have addressed
    every single issue within the letter of the law and to the satisfaction of its criteria.The weakest point I see is the 7 million gallon per day effluent from general process. There are several other weak points but I can’t discuss them with any authority.

    I am not quite sure how to react to the Stringham comment, but in one sense at least, it looks like not a lot more than advertising.

    • Alaska Pi says:

      There are 2 or 3 important points in the Stringham comment which are particularly important here.
      There is a strong desire and I think, as many do, a need to develop a real mechanism , consistent with our state Constitution , which requires a permitting process which allows for a different way to look at development which has strong potential to damage other resources.

      State of Alaska » Lieutenant Governor » Alaska Constitution
      The Constitution of the State of Alaska

      Article 8 – Natural Resources

      § 1. Statement of Policy

      It is the policy of the State to encourage the settlement of its land and the development of its resources by making them available for maximum use consistent with the public interest.

      § 2. General Authority

      The legislature shall provide for the utilization, development, and conservation of all natural resources belonging to the State, including land and waters, for the maximum benefit of its people.

      • Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

        Pi – What you say may well be true. Some months ago out of curiosity I looked at the DNR web site specifically interested in the status of permitting for the Pebble Mine. From what little time I had to put into the effort I came away with several impressions.

        The first was that the regulations/laws/process so far as I can tell is pretty thorough, however, as with all such things they are utterly dependent on how they are implemented, carried out, enforced and supervised.

        The second was that the schedule of permitting documents on the Pebble appeared to be about 2 years behind schedule, at least there were no new documents available under that project that were less than two years old.

        The third was that I could not find a thorough overview of the project from the discovery phase forward, if it exists I could not figure out where it exists. So for instance I still have no idea if the project involves only state or only federal lands or both.

        And the fourth was that the one or two permitting documents that I looked at which I might or might not be qualified to assess didn’t appear to be clearly connected to whatever criteria applied to them. Nor could I locate those criteria.

        I think you can see where I am heading with this. If existing law and regulation should in principle be adequate to fullfill the rather vaguely worded clauses in the constitution but does not because those responsible simply interpret {consistent with the public interest} and {maximum benefit of its people} in an industry friendly way, then how can we expect more or even better law to work in that sense?

        Now this is just an impression and not a very well informed one admittedly but two examples jump to mind in this context, the mayor of Anchorage soaking the city for nearly $200,000 with an undocumented claim of possibly illegal insurance, and the gas pipline deal that guarantees Transcanada $500 million whether it is ever built or not. One conclusion I come to from those is that Alaska has a problem with the diligent enforcement of its existing laws. Unless you can fix that, I don’t see how any new law is going to make any difference.

        I don’t mean to be fatalistic, I am just pointing out what to me seems obvious.

        • Alaska Pi says:

          I don’t think you sound fatalistic- I think you sound realistic.
          I think that a thorough review of pertinent existing law in relation to resource management is very important. Riverwoman’s remarks @ 10 are important in establishing some of the issues with how and if existing law is enforced or followed.

          The language in the constitution grew out of the very real concern that resources here were being co-opted by Outside interests and that establishing a framework for management in the public interest or for general welfare was critical.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_of_Alaska#Article_VIII:_Natural_Resources

          As those notions, which you point to as vague, are amorphous , constant attention to what we think and want there is necessary.

          The easily accessible public information here :

          http://dnr.alaska.gov/mlw/mining/coal/chuit/index.htm

          indicates a legal framework exists to look at coal mining quite carefully in relation to other local resources but as the decision rests entirely with a Commissioner I think we lack the mechanism to fully require full deliberation.

          “An area may designate as unsuitable for all or certain types of surface coal mining operations if the commissioner determines that the operations in the area will

          Be incompatible with existing state or local land use programs;
          Affect fragile or historic land in which the operations could result in significant damage to important historic, cultural, scientific, and aesthetic values and natural systems;

          Affect aquifer recharge areas or other renewable resource land in which the operations could result in a substantial loss or reduction of long-range productivity of water supply or food or fiber products; or

          Affect areas subject to frequent flooding and areas of unstable geology, or other natural hazard land in which the operations could substantially endanger life and property;”

          Here’s a resource about Pebble- these folks are very accessible and while the site is lagging some in updating they are working on various current surveys related to the project.

          http://groundtruthtrekking.org/Issues/MetalsMining/PebbleMine.html

          • Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

            Pi – Fatalist/realist may be a distinction without a difference in this case.

            I have seen both of those sites before but revisted them to refresh my memory.

            I found this part of the rules highly pertinent Re: Chuitna

            “An area shall be designated as unsuitable for all or certain types of surface coal mining operations if the commissioner determines that reclamation is not technologically feasible in the area;…”

            From what little information is available to me I can’t make a truly informed statement in this regard but the following comes to mind and may apply. The area in question appears to be of low relief and dominated by existing wetlands, that essentially means the water table is at the surface. The depth of mining that is proposed is ~350 feet which tends to imply that substantial overburden will have to be removed to reach the coal seams and that the end of recoverable coal lies at that maximum depth. Without regard for the process water effulent from the mine there will be substantial problems with ground water. At the very least 1) keeping the mine dry enough to operate due to ground water influx and 2) since the area is proximate to the coast the dangers of salinization of the littoral water table will also be great. It seems to me as though a significant area of the mine will actually be *below* sea level when worked out. Given the above and the volume of coal to be removed, I can’t see a feasible means of reclaiming this site absent the introduction of volumes of material from some other site equal to or greater than the volume of coal removed and without that occuring what is now a coastal wetland will become brackish estuary for whatever remains of the existing rivers. On that basis alone the commisioner could have determined that reclaimation is not technologically feasible. I would like to see the detailed counter argument to that conclusion.

            It is interesting to note that the DNR site appears to be some months behind in updates given that the public meeting has already occurred and no date is available from the web site.

            Regarding the Pebble related site I have several problems with its approach to this issue which are partly subjective of course but not entirely. Before even beginning, however, let me reiterate as I have said elsewhere that my criticisms are based on the idea that opposition to a project must be credible to be effective and therefore equal or exceed the rigor of the original proposals. While it is no doubt true that purely visceral appeals may sway some people that would never even entertain a rigorous technical argument, even small missteps on the part of opposition can allow “officials” to disregard them entirely as incompetent hysterics. So these criticisms are meant in a strictly constructive sense and not disparagingly.

            The first criticism I have is the mention of the *possible* use of cyanide leaching. This even after the admission that no detailing mining and recovery plan has been put forward. The writers of the site may not be aware of the fact that copper/gold porphyry deposits contain the bulk of their or in sulfide minerals (although not necessarily the gold). The presence of large amount of sulfide make the use of cyanide inefficient. So to broach the subject without any specific knowledge of what recovery process is going to be proposed appears superficially as simple alarmism without justification. Not necessarily to the public, but conveniently to any authorities biased in favor of the mine. Even if some cyanide process was proposed, it should be criticised specifically. Many processes are available and in operation world wide and in general the track record is pretty good. In brief I think this is a bad tactic and counterproductive.

            The next thing that troubles me though is that the most glaring weakness of the overall mine proposal in so far as we know it, is mentioned but not explained and given no context. That is the matter of the earthen dams meant to expand ***existing*** lakes as tailings impoundments. Given the location of the mine and its distance from the very active seismic zones of Alaska, the suggestion that the earthquake risk to the dams is an imporant factor could probably be easily discredited in terms that an official would readily accept. What is truly critical is the fact that these very large impoundments will be in direct communication with the water table, and hence, regardless of any rare event disrupting a dam significantly, over time, the ground water and therefore the surface water as well will be progressively polluted by the inevitable chemical processes involved in mixing vast volumes of finely pulverized fresh rock with water. I can almost guarantee that anomalous levels of copper molybdenum and gold pathfinder elements already exist within the watersheds. In fact that is probably one method by which the deposit was discovered in the first place. What needs to be understood is how rapidly will the concentrations of these elements rise in those watersheds as the pollution front migrates down stream in the water table? Along these same lines there is another obstacle that comes under consideration. If memory serves it is the SCOTUS decision concerning a very similar impoundment proposal at the Kensington mine in SE AK. That decision was deeply flawed for the same reason I have been arguing above, apparently the 9 very educated and experienced judges could not understand that fact that the water in a lake is in equilibrium with the ground water and a constant exchange takes place from up stream to downstream. The Kensington mine decision allowed the operator to use an existing lake as a mine waste impoundment. So the Pebble got a boost from that but I am sure that no supreme court justice has ever crossed paths with anyone in any way connected the Anglo-American.

            The second weakest point in the mining plan whatever it ultimately is but which must be addressed is what to do with the waste rock from the open-cast portion of the mine? This is passed over entirely, or rather perhaps lumped in with the issue of process waste on the web site. Yes yes I know you have to keep it simple, but actually if it isn’t simple, making it so artificially can be perceived as dishonest, so caution is advised. It works both ways too, if you can show that the proponents of the project have over simplified…. In any case in terms of efficiency and therefore costs, it is important that you can move a unit volume of stuff the maximum distance if you move it downhill because gravity assists you. If, from the perspective of the overall environment the ideal of reclaimation is to return the site to its approximately original state, leaving a huge crater two miles wide and 3/4 of a mile deep while at the same time burying a large area under a thick layer of waste rock seems a little unpleasant, why should such an approach be permitted? Obviously it is cheap. To the mining company. But it has an external cost. To make a useful argument in this context I think a compromise solution would be most workable.

            I am off on too much of a tangent here so I will try to pull it back on track. The way I see it, the general interest in these and many other but perhaps not all such cases is pitted against vast wealth and capability concentrated into a disciplined and aggressively profitable company. The general interest is diffuse except in one sense, supposedly it is represented by its government and through taxation provides the resources and concentrated monetary capacity to regulate what big companies can and cannot do. To my mind, recent events imply that the relationship I just described has been reversed and now big companies regulate the government.

          • Alaska Pi says:

            I’m thinking there is still an important distinction between realism and fatalism amongst all this . I cannot see giving up no matter how well organized and well funded the corporations pushing projects like the current Chuitna project are.
            I’m very uncomfortable with giving up.
            There is a permit in the works for a UCG project very near the Chuitna proposal- on private land.
            http://www.cirienergy.com/Proposed_Project.html
            http://www.alaskadispatch.com/dispatches/energy/6493-alaska-coal-everything-old-is-new-again?showall=1
            This is my Regional Corporation. I have a vested interest in holding them to the promise of carbon capture, as a shareholder and an Alaskan. Fancy literature and promises to be a good corporate citizen do not impress me.

            I too am pretty unimpressed with the DNR Commissioner’s office, past and present, as regards open, timely information being available whether it be about Chuitna coal or the Pebble permitting process.
            ——————————–
            I do think it important to note that Dynasty has had a shaky voice when it comes to the use of cyanide in some part of it’s proposed process, small percentage though it may be :

            “Hawley said the claims made by the group about use of cyanide at the mine were also untrue.

            “This is a scare tactic,” Hawley said at the RDC meeting. “The bulk of Pebble’s ore will be processed using a floatation method (a mechanical process). It is possible that a small amount of ore, perhaps 5 percent, might be further processed using cyanide, but this hasn’t been decided yet. The cyanide would all be in a closed-circuit process, though.” ”

            http://www.alaskajournal.com/stories/012807/hom_20070128014.shtml

            which rightfully concerns many folks.

          • Alaska Pi says:

            I forgot to say- the Supreme Court decision you referenced is very real to me as I live near Kensington. It seemed to turn most on a definition of “fill” v “pollution” and a change in regs under Mr Bush .
            The Supreme Court majority opinion gave the benefit of the doubt to the Army Corps of Engineers’ take on it but the scathing minority opinion may someday trump the majority as we work our way through more of these kinds of project proposals.

          • Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

            PI – Cyanide, despite the obvious nastiness of the stuff is a very safe process if it is handled correctly. There are litterally hundreds of mines that use it, it has been used for many decades and the few incidents that have occurred have been due exclusively to egregious malpractise. I don’t see it being a big factor at Pebble. Far worse from an environmental point of view are the free copper that is not recovered and lost to tails, other metals that are almost certainly present that will all go to tails in quantities that will pose a pollution threat, the acidification problem that will come from the huge quantities of sulfur involved, the pollution resulting from power generation (I infer from the citation of power usage that the mine plan is to reduce the copper to metal ingots which requires vast amounts of electricity), the pollution and possible disruption of watersheds from infrastructure developments and no doubt several others.

            These are just the near term problems. Using virtually all the water available for two watersheds may take a few years to ramp up but the consequences will be felt.

            I think I understand your position on fatalism v. realism and assure you that I have similar sympathies. In a sense, we all have a dog in this fight, the problem is most of us don’t even know about it and if we did, the only thing we can do about it is so trivial without massive solidarity that giving way is the only feasible option. I am glad you are different, I hope I have had a positive effect in my own small way.

            You are in Alaska and so you have a better chance than I do of having an effect. All Alaskans should be thinking about the future of that place, but that is the last thing the corporate oligarchy wants anyone to do.

            To paraphrase a quote from Einstein, “The difference between greed and altruism is that altruism has limits.”

          • Alaska Pi says:

            I learn many things everytime you comment here.
            I know a lot more about fish than most other things and some days I don’t think I really know doodly-squat about fish.
            I don’t feel like I’ll never learn enough about mining to be truly conversant with it all but you’ve opened a lot of avenues of information and investigation and I very much appreciate it.
            Thank you so very much.

            I have always appreciated Mr Einstein .
            The thing is that none of this comes from altruism for me. It is all for my kids and now grandchildren- the only limit is the length of my life.
            It may not be enough to shift the tide against corporatism but it’s all I’ve got.
            And I’m going to putt away at it as long as I am able.

  10. Ndjinn says:

    Thanks to all that could go, thanks fir standing up fr the fish. There is simply no justification to have had This hearing down there, just as there is no justification to have a coal mine out there.

  11. Awesome reporting Jeanne!! Quyana for all you do!! Keep up the great work!

  12. tallimat says:

    ROAR !

    If I understand this process correctly, DNR must respond to every comment? I don’t know. I will have to look it up.

    In any case I wrote 2 pages of comment/questions and submitted
    to the appropriate comment collector.

    I’m not surprised every oz of coal extracted will go to the Asian markets.
    Seems like common practice with Alaskas sub surface resources.

    I’m a Alaska’s resources for Alaskans first girl.

  13. M. Paul says:

    Great reporting AKM and mostly why I come to your Mudflats.

    I fly the Tyonic/Baluga area about ten times a year in a small plane and can not imagine any one needing to destroy such a …. majestic landscape.

    I can only guess but this coal they are after, is it being marketed to China or some other region rather then being another natural resource for Alaskans. Makes one wonder.

    M. Paul

  14. Bob S. says:

    thanks ms. muckraker! excellent coverage as per usual. i’ve gone to many, many hearings in kenai, and never saw anything like that. alaskans clearly value salmon over coal for china!

  15. One big question here is “Who owns the land that Pac Rim plans to strip? The Village of Tyonek thinks they own it; but ownership of subsurface rights may lie with the Village or regional corporation.

    As we all know, one reason that ANILCA created Native corporations was to facilitate transference of natural resources from Natives to mainstream corporations. In the Lower 48, lands are owned in common by the members of each individual Tribe – each of which is legally a “dependent nation” with a high degree of sovereignty. Tribal Councils often include one or more Traditionalists who do not want their traditional way of life disrupted. Also, as Tribal councils change membership every few years, mainstream companies have a hard time sustaining multi-year deal-making. The deal made with one Council may be voided by the next. (I worked for the Blackfeet Tribe of 3 yrs and founded their Environmental Office. I also represented the Tribe in negotiations with certain developers, with some State and Federal agencies, with 2 Congressional subcommittees, and in Federal court as an expert witness).

    Alaska Native corporations eliminate a host of problems for the purposes of mainstream corporations. But they do not always serve the non-monetary interests of “tribal” members, as now appears to be the case for Tyonek Village. So one key to resolving this whole mess may lie in interaction between the Village and the Village/regional corporation. Whatever support you provide to the Village may strengthen their influence over the corporation.

    Even if the Village owns all (not just part) of the land to be stripped, Federal mining law allows those with mineral rights to modify the surface as they see fit, including stripping it of any timber or other resources wanted for the mining. Efforts to drastically revise this “archaic” law have so far been unsuccessful.

    Pac Rim’s project manager assured the crowd that the mine would not be developed unless it could be done in an ecologically sound manner. That is probably true – if the mining industry gets to define “ecologically sound” and to control interpreting or rewriting the laws that limit impacts on wildlife or require sustained yield wildlife management.

    Example 1: Alaska’s supposedly stringent water quality protection regulations and federal EPA standards may not be appropriately designed to protect wild salmon. For instance, as fisheries biologist Dr. Carol Ann Woody has pointed out, these regulations allow levels of copper in water that could destroy the ability of salmon to home in on their natal streams. Water quality standards may need to be revised to assure they meet the needs of salmon – in their natal stream, not just in an aquarium, which is how EPA tests the tolerances of each species.

    Example 2: When I worked on environmental impact cases in Vermont, the State’s Act 250 prohibited development projects from “destroying” “ habitat” critical to a game species – i.e., to deer, moose, black bear, or certain other species that hunters like to kill.” Two kinds of critical habitat addressed were conifer stands used for shelter by deer and moose during winter, and beech trees that produced nuts relished by deer and black bears. So beech stands important to deer or bears were supposedly protected from logging. One ski company wanted to log its land to produce new slopes for skiing. The company claimed that logging did not “destroy habitat”, because after logging the “habitat” was still there. In support of their argument, they found a textbook definition of “habitat” as the place where a species lives or could live; and the place would still be there after logging was done. However, that definition of “habitat” did not fit the intent of the law. As I argued in court, the appropriate definition is that “habitat” is the place, and the characteristics of that place, which allow a species to live, reproduce, and thrive there.” Logging, in that situation, would destroy the characteristics needed by black bears, and thus destroy it as “habitat” for bears, irrespective of whether it destroyed it as “habitat” for any other species.

    Example 3: When I worked for the USFWS Marine Mammals Management Office, I was assigned to determine what protections a broad array of laws provided to polar bear habitat. Perhaps the most important law was the Marine Mammal Protection Act. After a month of analysis, I still could not tell what the Act said, if only because various clauses and amendments seemed to contradict one another. In frustration, I visited the office of the Federal Solicitor – i.e., Dept. of Interior’s lawyers. I asked them how to interpret various clauses. I was rebuffed several times before they realized I would not stop pestering them for an answer. Finally, one of the attorneys pulled me aside and admitted that they had no idea how to interpret the Marine Mammal Protection Act. For the Act was not written with an internally self-coherent logic, much less with a clear understanding of Nature (without which, regulations may not be written appropriately to achieve their stated intent). Furthermore, the attorneys would NEVER offer an interpretation until a politician told them what interpretation was wanted, whereupon the attorneys would search though the Act looking for wording to justify that interpretation. The same might hold with DNR regulations. DNR could search through its regulations and governing laws to find language that will define whatever Pac Rim wants to do as legal and environmentally sound, irrespective of what it actually does to the Chuitna ecosystem and to residents there and elsewhere in Alaska.

    Your remedy for these flaws in the impact permitting “system” is to motivate your legislators take control of the process and create definitions to key terms that are appropriate for true protection of salmon, habitat, etc.

    If the laws and definitions are crystal clear and well tailored to protect ecosystems and species therein, then the next step is to assure that impact assessments are scientifically sound, both strategically (are the right questions being asked and answered?) and tactically (is each kind of data being collected in the right way?). Development-skeptics, like those which thronged this meeting – need to be able to select scientists as their representatives to help design impact research; participate in the research; use double-blind tests to verify completeness, accuracy and timeliness of the data; then critique the research and interpret it. Letting the developer or DNR control impact studies just guarantees that the public’s interest will be served – on a platter to the developer.

    This approach is essential not just for Chuitna, for Pebble and every other source of potentially major ecological impact.

    Time to start lobbying your legislators and talking with biologists about this – not just those who work for and are to some extent controlled by government agencies, but also those in universities, NGOs and consulting companies like WildWatch.

    Stephen F. Stringham, PhD
    President – WildWatch
    Soldotna, AK
    wildwatch_consulting@yahoo.com

  16. Heather says:

    Thank you for coming on this trip and posting this fantastic piece. I was so inspired to be in that room with so many articulate people with a common message. I would like to invited concerned citizens to attend the Jonesville Coal Mine & DNR informal Conference this Monday, Jan 24th from 5:30 to 8 pm at the Sutton Elementary School. Go to http://www.castlemountaincoalition.org or email mvc@mtaonline.net for more information.

    Two deep open pit strip coal mines are trying to open in the Matanuska Valley in neighborhoods. Join the neighbors and concerned citizens speaking up.

  17. UgaVic says:

    I have to have some hope that the people, scientists, fishermen, etc can be heard.

    If not then the state of Alaska can look to WVA, LA and many other polluted states of what is to come in Alaskan proportions!!

  18. AKjah says:

    I want to thank all who were at that meeting and who testified. It behooves me that our great state has a DNR that would even look at a project like this and not exclude it out right. This mine must be stopped and then we must move to rework our regulatory agencies. Stop letting outside corporations decide how to develop Alaska. I know…wish in one hand..

  19. Mo says:

    Thank you for getting this testimony into the very public record, where it can be seen and read by all, instead of getting dumped into a DNR file cabinet.

  20. Riverwoman says:

    I propose that we petition our legislators to pass a law to direct the DNR to make public an analysis that proves that every project in the state is in compliance with the state constitution’s mandate that the natural resources of this state be managed for the benefit of all state residents. I do not see many state residents benefitting from this mining project. This is a project by an outside company that wants to tear the coal out of the ground, destroy a healthy fish run forever, ruin two communities, and sell the coal to China. Where is the benefit to Alaskans?

    Resource management has fallen from rational science-based discussions to political footballs. Every governor since Knowles seems to want to be the one that implements the next ‘pipeline boom’.

    • Riverwoman says:

      This is why Murkowski moved the permitting office out of Fish and Game into DNR. So there would not be a dissenting opinion in issuing permits, and in order to “fast-track” these projects.

      Thanks, Frank.

    • Alaska Pi says:

      I am 100% with you.

  21. Having read the article it sounds like the DNR has made up their mind and you will be getting a mine you don’t want. After my mother passed ten years ago, i swore I would never shed another tear and now my heart is breaking for the people of Alaska. You’ve put tears in my eyes and soon I’m gonna start bawling like a baby. Once its gone,it is gone.

  22. Sarafina says:

    So what’s next? Will there be a hearing in Tyonek? What’s the time frame for the DNR recommendation?

    The prospect of the mine sounds just dreadful.

  23. Zyxomma says:

    My magic carpet (which I’d counted on to carry me from NYC to Anchorage) was out of commission, so I wasn’t on the Magic Bus, except in spirit. Thank you to everyone who went, and thanks to AKM for a stellar bunny-boots-on-the-ground report.

    Strip mined ecosystems/habitats can NEVER be restored. To believe otherwise is to be delusional. I sent my emails, signed petitions, and did what I can from Manhattan. If you’d like to take further action against coal mining, go to http://www.ran.org and click the “take action” button. Even better, sign up for email alerts.

    Today is Tu b’Shvat, where we celebrate the sap rising, rather than sinking, in the trees. We celebrate with fruits and nuts (the gifts of the trees), and both red and white wines. Tikkun olam shalom. Health and peace.

  24. ks sunflower says:

    Reading through the comments, you can hear the desperation of breaking hearts pleading for common decency, compassion for both the environment and the people who live in it and the salmon other forms of wildlife that both support and depend upon humankind. I am in tears.

    That anyone would even consider this project as viable or necessary is beyond imagination for me. That people would have to plead for mercy, for common sense, for simple understanding is sad beyond sadness, it is tragic.

    What kind of greed drives people to ruin lives and decimate an entire region?

    I pray that President Obama’s administration is not backing this project. I wonder if deals were struck for the benefit of China as trade-offs for our debt with them. I hope not. I desperately hope not. If so, there is no way I can believe in any administration’s claim to protect its people and respect our land.

    Still, the question lingers. Why has this project gotten this far? How has it gotten this far?

    Who is benefiting? Just stockholders?

    We know who will be suffering both short-term and long-term, but to whom can we trace the decision and drive to damage a environment beyond recovery, wipe out generations of people who depend on that environment, and take away the promise of that environment from generations to come?

    Those are the people to whom I point to and shame with every fiber of my being. Those are people with no hearts, no souls, no understanding. Shame onto them.

    I have no words worthy of praising those who stand against this project, who gave voice to their hearts and heads at the meeting, in emails, faxes, letters or phone calls. These people are the heroes, who have gratitude for what nature has provided and understand how precious and fragile it is, how precious and fragile we all are.

    Thank you, people of the meeting, people of the Magic Bus, people of my heart. Bless you and may your words have impact, may your voices be counted.

  25. zyggy says:

    Powerful words, but will anyone listen to those words and not allow the mining?

  26. fawnskin mudpuppy says:

    amen to that, linda

    • GreatGranny2C says:

      Hello Miz Fawn – You have been MIA of late – good to see you posting!

      Mr GG2C sends hugs and best wishes your way. We hope to head back to DC for cherry blossom time and it would be super to have a mini mudstock – any takers?

      AKM – Excellent coverage as always – I hope and pray the DNR makes the right decision. Our family enjoyed many delicious meals of salmon that Don took from that area.

  27. newman says:

    I didn’t attend the meeting but did send an educated/scathing e-mail mid afternoon, yesterday….besides totally enjoying fishing the Chuitna for Chinook, as an added bonus,I also usually get to watch Brown Bears ‘being Brown Bears’ while there…

  28. Hope (1) says:

    I was there, and this is an excellent recap, as always, AKM! Thank you! I did not speak, and I’ve been trying since to find words to say something in my local paper. The image that kept coming to me all night in my dreams was that of a world in which people had the power to use body parts of living individuals of their choice for their own profit. “Say! I’ll bet we could sell some lung tissue for big bucks in Timbucktoo! There’s a healthy body! She doesn’t need ALL her lung tissue! Let’s take that! She’s got more than enough! It’ll grow back! (we think!) (maybe) (surely) Anyway, if not, we’ll be long gone by then, and what’s she going to do? Chase us down? With half a lung?”

    The representative from Pac-Rim reminded us that this hearing wasn’t about the specifics of the project, just about the viability of the possibility of the concept of the idea of maybe doing some mining of some kind sometime if it’s necessary and lucrative. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here!” he suggested. I thought, “We’re way behind ourselves for this even to be on the table! NO! NO! We need to decide right here and now and forever that we will not take the healthy body that is Alaska’s wild salmon cycles and its interaction for eons with all the innumerable elements of the health of the life here and sell it to whomever pulls the right strings or greases the right palms of whoever has that say. We need to take the say. We need to find a voice.”

    One of the speakers commented that the only good thing about this long, horrifying period where this question is even considered somehow a valid question to raise, is that more and more people are hearing about it, and are finally standing up and saying, “NO! Not here in Alaska you don’t!”

    I spoke with a number of people after the meeting, and we all felt that the goal now is to stick together and keep the momentum going to begin helping our neighbors to see Alaska as a healthy body that is able, when defended, to become more and more healthy in leading the whole nation and even the world in finding and tapping into the true, sustainable power of keeping the body healthy and giving thanks for its ongoing generosity. Cook Inlet Keeper is possibly the largest established group working toward standing up to make this a reality. I plan to go to their website and get on their mailing list and find out how I can find my voice and make it heard not only on this issue, but on all issues of the invasion of the healthy body by those who would devastate sustainable life here for short-term profit.

    I’m like Paul, one of the early speakers, who walked up to the mic and said simply, and powerfully,”I don’t know why we’re here tonight!” Then let the silent room slowly fill and expand and began to rise up as we all realized what he meant — how absurd it was that this issue was even in question and seriously being considered! But the reality, as Marj said, is that on the whole, many of us have been on a long lark in Alaska, either not realizing the true value and unique nature of this place, or assuming that it will never be threatened in this way, or “believing” that it will heal itself no matter how much damage we choose to inflict. Whatever the excuses, we don’t have laws and protections in place that prevent this kind of possible assault on the vitality and longevity of this life we are part of here. They need to be put in place. Now. And we who understand that are the ones who need to engage the brain, open the heart, fill the lungs and find a voice to make that happen.

    Hope

  29. I am proud of all of you who went and stood up for Alaska’s living resources.

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