Up in Alaska, politicians are being lured to surrender a wild salmon fishery to a coal company. It promises that it can remove the stream to mine 300 feet down and then, once strip mining is done, put it back together again as good as new, with functioning surface and groundwater systems.
A former commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game insists that it can’t be done.
“I can tell you from my experience and the experience of stream restoration efforts throughout the Pacific Northwest, this proposal to remove the Middle Fork of the Chuitna River for 25 years and then put it back together as a wild salmon stream is a pipe dream; it will not work,” Frank Rue says unequivocally.
Furthermore, he adds, if PacificRim Coal is allowed to proceed, it will signal that Alaska intends to follow the Pacific Northwest, New England, Canada, and Europe in replacing its wild salmon runs with artificial propagation in the name of progress.
“If the decision is made to mine the site, we can assume that the mining company’s restoration will eventually stabilize the land and the drainage patterns, and maybe leave behind lakes and wetlands with pike and stickleback, but the lost wild salmon productivity of the Middle Fork will be permanent. Is that where Alaska wants to go?”
He adds, “This paradigm shift will shape resource decisions across the state for generations to come. It’s Alaska’s choice: Do we reserve water in our streams to support our wild, sustainable salmon, or do we sacrifice our wild salmon habitat for a one-time use of a non-renewable resource and follow the lead of others who have decimated their wild salmon?
Alaskans have until April 9 to weigh in on the debate with the Department of Natural Resources. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.