EARTHWORKS

There oughta be a law against mining through a salmon stream

Jennifer Krill's avatar
By Jennifer Krill

February 7, 2011

But, there isn't, at least, not yet. That's why the wealthy Texans Dick Bass and William Herbert Hunt are proposing to develop a coal field that lies beneath the Chuit River, an extremely productive wild salmon watershed. On January 20th, more than 150 people attended a hearing in remote Kenai, Alaska to tell the State of Alaska that the commercial and subsistence salmon harvest make the Chuit River an 'unsuitable land' for an open-pit coal mine. Check out this great coverage in The Mudflats, including photos from the hearing and an outline of the comments. You can weigh in too; the deadline for comments if February 19th.

The proposed Chuitna coal mine would destroy 11 miles of the Chuit River, removing the entire streambed in order to mine the coal underneath. Although the quality of the Chuitna coal is low, its proximity to shipping to the the Asian electricity market seems to be a significant driver to develop this mine. It's bad enough that the U.S. will blow up mountains in order to burn our own coal; the Chuitna proposal takes us one step further from sanity by blowing up a U.S. river in order to sell coal to Japan or China. 20,000 acres would be destroyed, and 7 million gallons of mine waste would be pumped into the Chuit River daily in order to sell Alaska's coal on the international market.

The good news is that the proposed mine's neighbors are overwhelmingly opposed to the project, and they are taking a stand against it. All but one of the people at the Kenai hearing spoke against the mine, citing concerns about impacts on the salmon stream, downstream pollution, air emissions and dust pollution, the transportation corridor to get the mine to the port, and the irreversible damage the Chuitna mine would do to the native Tyonek village if it is built. From Appalachia to Australia, everybody knows that you do not want to live next door to an open pit coal mine. Despite a winter snowstorm, most of the people in the packed room drove at least 3 hours, to speak out, and a few who had planned on flying to the hearing couldn't make it because of weather.

Judy Heilman from Chuitna Citizens Coalition reports that another hearing will be held in Tyonek village, and then the Alaska Department of Natural Resources has 60 days to rule on whether a wild Alaskan river is a suitable site for a coal mine. You can join the campaign at the Chuitna Citizens Coalition website, and send your own comments to the Alaska DNR.

Tagged with: salmon, pollution, no dirty energy, coal, alaska

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