Recent developments involving the proposed Chuitna coal mine should have many Kenai Peninsula residents concerned.
First the Kenai Peninsula Borough is considering a new lease for PacRim Coal LLP at Ladd Landing on the west side of Cook Inlet. This small, borough-owned piece of land near the mouth of the Chuitna River near Tyonek is a key piece of the puzzle in developing a massive coal strip mine in one of Cook Inlet's most pristine and productive salmon bearing watersheds. If allowed to move forward, the mine on the Chuitna will destroy 11 miles of documented salmon habitat and dump an average of 7 million gallons of mine waste and run-off per day into the Chuitna River and ultimately Cook Inlet.
Recent federal regulatory changes in the way mining companies are allowed to work in and around salmon streams clears the way for Pac Rim to establish perhaps the most dangerous precedent ever facing our state's resources: active surface mining in a well-known salmon stream.
Can you imagine if this was proposed on the Kenai River or one of its tributaries like the Kiley River, the Russian or Quartz Creek?
The Kenai Peninsula Borough now has the important opportunity to take a stand against destructive resource development practices that threaten genetically unique salmon runs in upper Cook Inlet. We wouldn't allow a wide open surface coal strip mine in the headwaters of the Kenai, so why should it be allowed on the Chuitna?
All Kenai Peninsula residents, and Alaskans alike, should be united against such a proposal on any of our precious waters that support wild salmon, steelhead and trout.
If our borough leadership is eying the Chuitna coal mine as a source of potential income for the peninsula and its residents, it is doing so in the face of destroying a very unique ecosystem.
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