Parnell Gets Fish Slapped
When one grapples for a visual allegory of what happened to the Parnell administration this week, it’s hard to think of anything more appropriate than this:
That’s Sean Parnell on the right, and the Anchorage Superior Court on the left.
The Superior Court ruled that the constitutional rights of Alaskans have been violated by the current administration when Parnell & Co. refused to process a four-year-old application to reserve water in the Chuitna River watershed for wild salmon.
“Today’s ruling is a victory for every Alaskan who wants to protect wild salmon and the Alaskan way of life,” said Ron Burnett, a fisherman, hunter and founding member of the Chuitna Citizens Coalition. You may remember the Burnetts from a trip The Mudflats took to Beluga and Tyonek, the communities most directly affected by the proposed mine. “Time and again, the state of Alaska has put the interests of Outside mining interests ahead of the rights of Alaskan residents. This decision should help restore the balance,” he said.
In August 2009, the Chuitna Citizens Coalition filed the applications with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, which was headed most recently by Dan Sullivan, current Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. The application attempts to ensure adequate water flows for wild salmon in a tributary of the Chuitna River threatened by the Chuitna coal strip mine.
Last week’s ruling found DNR’s refusal to process the applications amounted to an “unreasonable delay,” and also violated Alaskans’ constitutional rights of due process. The court also noted how the DNR found time to issue water use permits to the coal company while ignoring the requests to keep water in the stream for wild salmon.
“We had to spend a lot of time and money simply to get DNR to obey basic safeguards to protect wild salmon.” said Burnett. “It shouldn’t be this hard to get the Parnell Administration to protect salmon habitat.” Parnell has stated in the past that he’d “never trade one resource for another.” Well… unless it’s trading salmon for coal, which apparently doesn’t count.
PacRim Coal’s proposed Chuitna coal strip mine, right across Cook Inlet from Anchorage would be the first project in state history to mine directly through a wild salmon stream. The Chuit River is home to all five species of salmon, and not only would the mine plow through productive salmon habitat, it would dump millions of gallons of toxic mine sludge into the waters of Cook Inlet every day.
The court ruling comes as Gov. Parnell also pushes to deny Alaskans the right to file instream flow reservations to protect salmon, and to remove Alaskans’ voice from many natural resource permitting decisions — through House Bill 77. At least he’s consistent.
“The Parnell Administration knew it was breaking the law when it denied our efforts to keep water in our fish streams, and now it wants to change the law with HB 77 rather than allow Alaskans to protect our salmon,” explains Burnett. “This is part of a steady and deliberate effort to silence Alaskans in basic decisions governing our natural resources.”