Salmon runs, clean water put at risk by mine dumping

Posted: Friday, September 16, 2005

It is my understanding the EPA has, for the first time since the Clean Water Act of 1972, agreed to let Coeur Alaska dump mine waste into fresh water, the fresh water in question being Lower Slate Lake located in proximity to Lynn Canal.

As an Alaskan commercial fisherman for more than thirty years, an important contributor to the economy, as well as someone who spent my childhood in Anchorage, I can identify as someone genuinely concerned for the well-being of Alaska.

Open pit gold mining operations do nothing for residents of the state of Alaska and serve the purposes of only a select few. Why is this so hard to figure out? Special interest groups with lobbying dollars have put a spin on this issue that only the most ignorant will buy. The sad thing is that it seems to be working. It’s time for the more rational segment of the population to sit up and pay attention.

What possible justification can there be for taking a chance on the salmon resources of this great state? Accidents can and do happen. We must insist that our state governments set precedent and refuse to cave into business groups such as the Coeur Alaska and the handful of other companies that stand to profit financially while the waters of Lower Slate Lake are threatened and the salmon run potentially eradicated . Most frightening is the idea of making exceptions to Acts such as the Clean Water Act. Making exceptions erodes important legislation that was designed to protect citizens from adverse effects.

We live in a fragile environment. If the tragedy in the southeastern United States hasn’t taught us that, I don’t know what will. It is time for citizens to rely on our state governments to face these new realities, take important stands in spite of the trend of the present federal government, and take a long term look at where we want our state to be environmentally in the years to come.

That same sort of thoughtful consideration done effectively years before could have saved thousands of lives in the southern part of the United States. I urge you to begin a policy shift by keeping Lower Slate Lake clean of mine waste and dedicating the State of Alaska to making all policy choices based on the long term health of its citizens, not the short term money interests of business.

Jim Smith

Seattle, Wash.

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