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September 27, 2021

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Les Gara Stands Up for Alaska’s Salmon – Where is Captain Zero?


“Destroying a wild salmon stream to sell coal to China is about the worst idea in Alaska’s proud history of salmon protection.  We’ve always promoted responsible mines.  But this one is irresponsible,” said Representative Les Gara, of state plans allowing dredging of eleven miles of the Chuitna River’s tributaries to keep moving forward.

We couldn’t agree more.

On October 26, Gara wrote to Governor Sean Parnell and Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources Dan Sullivan (no relation to the hinky Mayor) seeking proof of any wild salmon streams that have been so badly dredged, and that have fully recovered.  So far… crickets.

Here is the letter sent by Rep. Gara, an avid fisherman and published Alaska fishing writer.

Re: State Decision to Let Dredging Of Chuitna King Salmon Waters Move Forward Dear Governor Parnell and Commissioner Sullivan:

Alaska has a good track record of responsible mining, at least since statehood. We’ve developed Red Dog Mine, Ft. Knox, Kensington and others, with little if any wild fisheries impact (Kensington has a detrimental impact on hatchery, not wild fish), and have jealously guarded our fish. The Governor promised he would never trade Alaska’s fish for another resource.

But that has all changed with this week’s decision to destroy 11 miles of one of the best king salmon streams in the State of Alaska – the Middle Fork tributary of the Chuitna River by Tyonek.

I was deeply disheartened by the recent DNR decision to allow the Chinese Chuitna Coal Mine project to move ahead, which occurred over the objections of the Village of Tyonek and many fishing organizations. Not since statehood has the state allowed a mining project to move ahead that would destroy a wild king salmon riverbed. The argument – that 25 years after destruction, the stream can be re-built – seems erroneous, and takes away a prized fishing stream for a generation of Alaskans.

I would ask for the following information:

1. What is the statutory authority that allows the destruction of a salmon bed for 25 years, and what are the standards for rebuilding it?

2. In 2004 Governor Murkowski’s commissioner’s weakened the “no pollution in mixing zones” regulation that forbade pollutants in salmon streams. Can you please provide me with a copy of the replacement regulations?

3. What are the examples of wild king salmon streams that have had 11 miles completely dredged (which will drop lethal sediment into the lower parts of the river), and then restored back to their original legal of production with wild, and not hatchery fish?

I worry this state has lost its way. Until 2004 we had the strongest fisheries protection standards in the world, and it’s no mistake that we have the strongest fish runs in the world. In 2004 Governor Murkowski changed the law. Your administration has now threatened to move ahead with two projects, Pebble Mine and the Chuitna Coal Project, that will destroy a way of life for local residents, and threaten to vastly damage this state’s prized king and red salmon, trout and other fish that subsistence, commercial and sport fishermen rely upon.

While I suppose we disagree on these projects, I would like the information I have asked for.

Thank you.

Rep. Les Gara

Thanks to Rep. Gara for standing up for one of the few issues all Alaskans can agree on – keeping healthy stocks of wild fish for future generations.

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Comments
11 Responses to “Les Gara Stands Up for Alaska’s Salmon – Where is Captain Zero?”
  1. Moose Pucky says:

    Same goes for hydro–a good idea in many places in Alaska. Not so good in others, where significant salmon runs may be threatened. Alaska’s legislators need to help determine which is which. They all can do better on this.

  2. Mo says:

    Sell coal to China. What a swell idea. And we should make it real cheap, yeah?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/22/science/earth/22fossil.html

    • Zyxomma says:

      From the above article:

      “In Australia, environmental groups have repeatedly halted trainloads of coal headed to the export docks at Newcastle this fall, and flotillas of kayaking protesters have delayed cargo pickups by Asia-bound coal ships.”

      Let us not forget that it was a Chinese ship, taking an illegal shortcut, that had a horrifying accident in the Great Barrier Reef. I know, I know, people have short memories. Here’s a reminder:

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/apr/14/coal-ship-barrier-reef-fatigue

      “The Chinese-registered Shen Neng 1 strayed from a shipping lane off north-east Queensland and ran aground on 3 April last year, spilling nearly three tonnes of fuel oil and etching a scar across a coral shoal that experts say may take 20 years to heal.

      He failed to check the ship’s position when he took over from his deputy shortly before the grounding. An hour later, he checked the ship’s global positioning system and realised the ship was off course and in shallow water.”

      We have only one planet. To pretend that it’s OK for China to burn coal while we phase it out in the US and Canada is not only hypocritical and shortsighted, it’s absurd. Our little planet has ONE atmosphere and ONE ocean (despite the names we give to pieces of it, which are really just geographical reference points, not discrete bodies of water like lakes).

      And as I’ve said so many times before, this is coal of such low quality that if it were in any state in the lower 48, it would probably be left in the ground. There’s only one thing sub-lignite coal is good for, which is exactly what it’s doing now: filtering the water it will ruin if it’s mined. Confused? Try shopping for a water filter. Most of them (those that aren’t reverse osmosis or other high-tech systems) use carbon to clean the water. That’s what happens underground, which is exactly where that coal should stay.

      NOTHING on this planet is more precious than fresh water. Not gold, not copper, not coal, not diamonds, not platinum. It is irreplaceable. Not one of us can live without it. Not even Parnell.

  3. hedgewytch says:

    Thank you Les. You got my vote. Hope you consider running for Gov one day. You sure seem to have the best interest of Alaskan’s in mind as opposed to Parnell, who seems to have the best interests of big extraction corp’s in his.

  4. Zyxomma says:

    Thank you, Les Gara. I’ve done my part by signing endless petitions, but as someone from Outside, there’s only so much it can help.

  5. Sourdough Mullet says:

    Thank you Les, I wish we could clone you.

    I was talking to a former MSB Assemblyperson the other week about coal mining. I was shocked to hear that there would be NO Borough tax paid on any coal removed from the proposed Wishbone Hill project. I was dumbfounded. The only thing residents would get in return for all the destruction, blasting, and coal dust pollution is a few dozen jobs (and the tax burden of paying for the infrastructure to support those who would move here to take them). Where resource taxes ARE paid, they are levied at 4 cents per ton on some other Usibelli coal projects. 4 cents per ton.

    This assemblyperson is also pretty sure that if Wishbone Hill does go ahead, they have no intention of shipping the coal to Pt. McKenzie, but would truck it to Palmer on the highway for storage and shipping on railcars at the gravelpit conveyor near Kepler-Bradley. MUCH cheaper. Can you imagine the impact of coal dust in Palmer, where the wind gusts routinely to 70 and 80 mph, like it did this week?

    Would ANY tax be paid for destruction of our rich resources and livelihoods at Chuitna? At Pebble Mine? (Not that any amount of money could compensate for such destruction.) I’m just wondering if it might change the opinions of some Alaskans that support this type of “resource development” to be made aware of this.

  6. marlys says:

    My Family thanks you also, Mr. Gara.

  7. Rvrat says:

    Thank you so much for writing that letter Mr. Gara, it really hit home with me.
    It’s a pisser that Sean-Bob and company don’t seem to listen to the 99%, that only people or companies that promise $ get a true hearing with them.
    Keep up the good fight.

  8. benlomond2 says:

    Doesn’t the EPA have some say in all of this ? Clean Water Act ? Any impact on Federal lands ? After all, Alaska gace up it’s control of Coastal Enviro to the Fed’s , due to Captain Zero,… would be ironic that his inaction there came back to bite him in the arse….

    • UgaVic says:

      There has been some work to get this Federal agency involved on Pebble, not sure the status. On the Coastal Management, or lack of it now, there is the question out there if the Feds and those regulations can be brought to the Pebble issue. It is somewhat off the ‘coast’ so not sure if that will impact things or not. Lots is unanswered. Look forward to lots more lawsuits, or at least attempts, on both sides when it comes to Pebble.

  9. GoI3ig says:

    I hope he mailed that letter to the board room of the mining company that is licking their chops. There’s a better chance Capt. Zero will get it that way, since he must be under the conference table.

    Les’s letter hits the nail on the head. This state has lost its way. It seems the GOP will not be happy until every square inch is either paved, or has a mine or oil derrick on it.

    It’s sad. Whatever happened to the slogan, “we don’t give a damn how they do it outside?”

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