Please don't trade one resource for another

Posted: Thursday, April 28, 2011

As residents of the Kenai Peninsula, we are blessed to have the Cook Inlet in our backyard. The Inlet provides innumerable resources for us all. One of the most bountiful and most valuable resources is salmon. Native Alaskans in villages along the Inlet absolutely depend on salmon for survival. Commercial, subsistence, and recreational fishing in the Inlet provides income and food for thousands of Alaskans each year. And a myriad of animal species, some of which are endangered or genetically unique, depend on the health of the Inlet for survival.

There is a proposal from PacRim LP, a Delaware corporation, to develop a strip coal mine along 32 square miles of the Chuitna watershed, near Tyonek. The proposed mine would remove 11 miles of Middle Creek, significant spawning waters for king and silver salmon. PacRim representatives have said after they extract the 300 million metric tons of coal to send to China, they can easily build the watershed back to pre-mining productivity. However, PacRim has yet to provide an example of a watershed ever being restored to pre-mining productivity.

This project would produce 300-350 good-paying jobs, a very small number compared to the thousands of fishing-related jobs depending on a healthy salmon population. We all know how most big corporations work. The high-ranking employees of PacRim, who are certainly not from Alaska, will make millions of dollars at our expense, and the coal will not even be used to power our state. PacRim plans to ship the coal to Asia to power China. The mercury that results from burning coal, in turn, will be carried back to Alaskan waters via the Pacific Ocean currents, and eventually end up in us by way of the local fish we eat. Yes, a vicious cycle, albeit a vicious cycle that can be prevented.

Please think about this, research the facts, and join me and thousands of other Alaskans in urging our politicians to prevent the PacRim Corporation from developing a strip mine along the Chuitna watershed in the Cook Inlet. If allowed, this would most certainly set a precedent for more mines to be developed along pristine salmon streams in Alaska. Maybe we should learn from California, Oregon and Washington, all of which have lost the majority of their wild salmon runs. Let's not repeat history!

During the 2010 campaign season, Gov. Sean Parnell was quoted as saying he would never trade one Alaskan resource for another. Mr. Governor, we and our future generations depend on you to hold true to your words. Please don't trade our salmon for a nonrenewable resource, such as coal!

Matt Tucker, Homer

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