Homer Alaska - Business

Story last updated at 12:54 PM on Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Coalition testifies against proposed Chuitna mine

In a letter sent earlier this week, the Chuitna Citizens Coalition asked Gov. Sean Parnell to honor his promise to Alaskans to "never trade one resource for another," by directing Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan to designate wild salmon streams in the Chuitna watershed as "unsuitable" for coal strip mining. The request comes as DNR reconsiders a petition filed by the Chuitna Citizens Coalition and Cook Inletkeeper to protect wild Alaska salmon from the impacts of PacRim Coal's proposed Chuitna coal strip mine in Upper Cook Inlet.

On March 2, the Alaska Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on mining through wild Alaska salmon streams, and whether salmon habitat could be successfully restored after mining. Dr. Margaret Palmer, the director of the National Science Foundation's Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center at the University of Maryland, and a world-renowned expert on coal mining impacts and stream restoration, testified PacRim's mining plan will "destroy 11 miles of salmon streams," that these impacts will be "irreversible," and that "large scale failure at Chuitna is inevitable."

PacRim Coal says it can build new salmon streams after 25 years of intensive strip mining, but it's never been done before.

Joining Dr. Palmer before the Senate Judiciary Committee were Lance Trasky, a longtime Alaska fisheries habitat biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and Dr. David Chambers, a geophysicist with 35 years of experience in mineral exploration and development. All three testified that after exhaustive searches — including a review of more than 38,000 reclamation and restoration projects worldwide — they could not find a single documented example of strip-mined salmon habitat successfully restored on the scale envisioned by the Chuitna coal strip mine in Cook Inlet.