Archives for February 2015

Water rights for wild salmon or coal mine? DNR to decide. Comments extended to April 9

Fish Radio
Water rights for salmon or coal mine? DNR to decide: Comments extended to April 9
February 27, 2015                                 

Chuitna strip coal mine area in Upper Cook Inlet

Chuitna strip coal mine area in Upper Cook Inlet

 This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch. Will it be water rights for salmon or a coal strip mine? How you can weigh in after this –

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The state is getting ready to choose between giving water rights to sustain wild salmon or to Alaska’s largest coal mine proposed at Upper Cook Inlet. If it opts for the mine, the decision will set a troubling legal precedent – it means the same could soon be coming to a river near you.

It would be the first time in Alaska’s state history that we would allow an Outside corporation to mine completely through a salmon stream. And the purpose is to ship coal to China. There would be no domestic use for this coal. And it’s really a very dangerous precedent because if they can do it here in Cook Inlet they will be able to do it anywhere in the state. 

Bob Shavelson is a director at Cook Inlet Keeper. The issue stems from an application filed back in 2009 by the Chuitna Citizens Coalition to ‘reserve’ water-rights to Middle Creek, a key tributary of the salmon-rich Chuitna River. The state stalled its decision until two years ago when a Superior Court judge ordered DNR to prioritize the Chuitna application. Meanwhile, mine developer PacRim Coal filed its own application to divert water from the creek to get to the underlying coal.

Based on PacRim data, the first phase alone would remove 20 square miles of salmon habitat, and discharge of 7 million gallons a day of mine waste into the Chuitna River PacRim aims to mine 12 million tons of low grade coal each year for 25 yearsPacRim insists they can restore the habitat after all the coal is tapped. Shavelson has his doubts –

Never, ever in the history of restoration has anyone ever dug down 300 feet to the geology and the hydrology of a salmon system and put it back together. It’s kind of like dropping a cake on the floor and pretending you can put it back together. And experts have not been able to find any examples of where it has been done, and PacRim also can’t show where it’s been done. 

The project also includes building roads, power lines, a workers camp, raised conveyor belts and a two mile long dock extending into Cook Inlet to load awaiting coal tankers.  

DNR waters resources Chief Dave Schade agreed that the water rights decision is precedent setting, and that it comes down to “saying yes to one applicant, and no to the other.”

The public comment period has been extended to April 9. Unless there is an appeal, a decision could be made 30 days after. Bob Shavelson –

It’s a very simple choice. Are we going to protect wild, healthy Alaska salmon or dig coal so a couple of Texas billionaires can sell it to China.

Find links to DNR at our website

Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods, serving Alaska’s fishing communities since 1910. On the web at – In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.  

Wild Salmon Streams or Coal Mine for China? Comments extended to April 9

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 23, 2015

Chuitna mine overview Credit:  DNR Will includ support facilities, mine access road, coal transport conveyor, personnel housing and air strip facility, a logistic center, and coal export terminal.

Chuitna mine overview
Credit: DNR
Will include support facilities, mine access road, power lines, coal transport conveyor, personnel housing and air strip facility, a logistic center, coal export terminal and 2 mile dock into Cook Inlet

Objections must be submitted in writing by email  to(
Fax (907-269-8904)
Delivered to the Department of Natural Resources, 550 West 7th Avenue, Suite 1070, Anchorage, Alaska 99501-3514

DEADLINE IS April 9th before 5:00 PM

 DNR Opens Public Comment Period on Water Rights for Chuitna River
Public invited to weigh in on choice between wild salmon or coal strip mining

 ANCHORAGE – The Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) opened a 15-day public comment period today on the Chuitna Citizens Coalition’s application to keep water in streams for salmon on Middle Creek. Middle Creek is an important salmon tributary of the Chuitna River watershed in Upper Cook Inlet where PacRim Coal proposes to strip mine through nearly 14 miles of salmon streams.      

 “The state of Alaska has a very simple choice to make between keeping water in streams for salmon or giving 100 percent of it to an Outside coal company to export coal to China,” said Judy Heilman, president and founding member of the Chuitna Citizens Coalition. “This application is a great opportunity for the Walker/Mallott Administration to stand with Alaskans and put fish first.”

 The Chuitna Citizens Coalition and Cook Inletkeeper applied for the Instream Flow Reservation over 4 years ago; however, the Parnell administration failed to process the application until a October 2013 Superior Court ruling saying it must do so.  At stake is whether the water in Middle Creek goes to protect wild Alaska salmon runs or to Delaware-based PacRim Coal, LLC. to mine and ship coal to Asian Markets.

“We were deeply disappointed in the Parnell Administration for drowning out the voices of Alaskans and failing to protect the salmon we rely on,” said Terry Jorgensen, a commercial fisherman who fishes a setnet lease near the mouth of the Chuitna River. “We’re encouraged Governor Walker’s commitments to include Alaskans in decision making and protect our invaluable wild salmon runs.”

 Just 40 miles west of Anchorage, PacRim Coal’s proposed strip mine would be the first project in state history to mine directly through a wild salmon stream.  Salmon habitat restoration after such intensive development has never been done before.  Today’s announcement kicks off a 15-day public comment period where Alaskans can weigh in on whether water should be protected for salmon or given to an Outside company to export coal overseas..

 “PacRim Coal’s first-of-its-kind proposal to mine through a salmon stream would set a dangerous precedent that would leave salmon streams across the state at risk,” said Jorgensen. “Do we leave water in streams for salmon, or do we give it to Outside companies to ship coal to China? For the next 15 days, Alaskans will have the opportunity to weigh in on this important decision.”

 Contact:  Judy Heilman, Chuitna Citizens Coalition, 907.301.5928
                Bob Shavelson, Cook Inletkeeper, 907.299.3277


The Chuitna Citizens Coalition is a diverse group of residents, landowners, sport and commercial fisherman, working to protect the beautiful Chuitna River from destruction by PacRim Coal.

 Editors Note: A press kit including images, B-roll, and a fact sheet on instream flow reservations is available at: