Friday, February 27, 2015

Mining Boom in Northern BC Threatens SE Alaska Fisheries

The BC Government's pro-mining agenda is threatening the livelihoods of people around the region who depend on healthy ecosystems, clean water and wild salmon. Perhaps nowhere is the impact of this mining boom bringing more anxiety over the possibility of disaster than in SE Alaska, where commercial fisheries are highly dependent on wild salmon stocks that return to three trans-boundary rivers. The Unuk, Stikine, and Taku rivers all draw their headwaters from the mountains of Northern BC, running west across the border and into Alaska. Each of these watersheds supports largely intact habitats, and healthy populations of wild salmon. Now a rash of mining proposals that would place mine tailing in their headwaters are threatening the future of these great rivers, and the BC Government has pushed forward mining proposals despite the opposition of downstream communities and the threats posed to other, sustainable industries.

Check out this short film and visit Salmon Beyond Borders for more information.

Friday, February 6, 2015

BC Government and Imperial Metals Go Ahead with Mine in the Taku River

Imperial Metals was responsible for the Mount Polley mine disaster - photo CBC news

The BC Government has given Imperial Metals the go ahead to begin construction and testing of a tailings pond at the proposed site of the Red Chris Mine in the Taku River watershed. Imperial Metals is the mining company responsible for the Mount Polley Mine disaster this past summer. Ironically news of the permit approval came the same week that police executed a search warrant at the Mount Polley Mine site looking for evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the company. Worse yet, a recent review highlighted major shortcomings in the design of the tailings pond at Red Chris, and because of the mining process and ore being extracted at Red Chris mine, a spill there could be far more toxic and catastrophic, raising alarm and anger among downstream fishing communities in Alaska

The mine is within the territory of the Tahltan First Nation, and a blockade by community members this summer prompted the review which exposed the faulty designs for the tailings pond. The Taku is also a Transboundary river, meaning that it flows across the BC border into Alaska, and is a major producer of sockeye and other salmon which support commercial fisheries in the state.

Despite the opposition, risks, and the recent turn of events the government is allowing the project to proceed. Perhaps not surprising given the long cozy relationship between Christy Clark's liberal government, and the fact that a major shareholder in the company held a $1-million dollar fundraiser for Clarks re-election bid at the Calgary Petroleum Club in 2013. The company has also donated close to $150,000 to the Liberal Part of BC in the last 10 years.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Bill in WA State Legislature Threatens Wild Fish Recovery

A misguided bill making its way through the Washington State Legislature right now is seeking to silence an increasingly vocal and effective opposition to hatchery programs that are jeopardizing wild salmon and steelhead recovery around the state. The bill would seek to silence hatchery opponents by denying Salmon Recovery Funding (SRF) Board funding, money intended to support habitat restoration and strategic scientific initiatives, to organizations that are engaged in litigation against state hatchery programs.

Here's more information from the Wild Steelhead Coalition:

SB 5551, introduced by Senator Kirk Pearson (R-Monroe), would deny state Salmon Recovery Funding Board contributions for any project or activity if the project sponsor has brought any legal action against the state before a court or administrative tribunal relating to fish hatchery facility operations within ten calendar years.

Sound science has repeatedly demonstrated that excessive hatchery production can have serious negative impacts on the recovery wild salmon and steelhead. Many advocacy organizations in the Northwest are working to recover populations of these iconic wild fish; through habitat restoration, harvest improvements, and hatchery reform.

Individuals and Non-governmental organizations have long sought redress in the courts to insure compliance with state and federal legislation. This is a well-established component of our American democracy, and an effective tool for the conservation of our shared natural heritage. These advocates argue SB 5551 deliberately jeopardizes this legal right with the threat of funding ineligibility, setting a dangerous precedent for our state.

Many of the same organizations who have challenged misguided or excessive hatchery programs in court also apply for and receive state Salmon Recovery Funding Board contributions for habitat restoration or in-stream connectivity work. Funding that would be preemptively denied if the sponsors of SB 5551 are successful.

The Washington state Salmon Recovery Funding Board provides “funding for elements necessary to achieve overall salmon recovery, including habitat projects and other activities that result in sustainable and measurable benefits for salmon and other fish species.” This funding was created specially to support the recovery of wild salmon and steelhead stocks. There is clear scientific evidence that excessive hatcheries can harm and impede wild fish recovery. Wild fish advocates argue that if passed, SB 5551 would severely undermine the very purpose of the Salmon Recovery Board funding.

Representatives from the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office and other state agencies tasked with salmon recovery have repeatedly said over the years that for “overall salmon recovery” to be successful, it will take a diverse group of citizens, agencies and organizations working together.
Unfortunately, it seems a small group of legislators is not interested in working together to tackle all the problems facing these iconic fish, including hatcheries. They would rather ignore science and play revenge politics against organizations whose views on fish hatcheries they disagree with, seeking to deny state funding for projects that benefit wild salmon and steelhead recovery, and the many people who want to see them make a comeback in our region.

Contact your state representative and voice your opposition to SB5551: