Wild salmon define who we are as Alaskans; they shape our cultures, they feed our families and they support our local economies. Yet today, Alaska’s laws and rules contain few hard and fast safeguards to protect the water and other habitat salmon need to thrive.
More specifically, there is no requirement to retain sufficient water in our lakes and streams for salmon when a company wants to appropriate that water for an industrial or other use. The only way currently to ensure salmon have sufficient water in a stream or lake is to secure a water right called an instream flow reservation.
Historically, these instream flow reservations have been granted on only a relatively few streams and lakes across the state, and typically only to governmental entities (the sole instream flow reservation granted to a non-governmental entity – in the Chuitna watershed in Upper Cook Inlet – cost the applicants hundreds of thousands of dollars to secure, and it’s now subject to appeals from mining companies and other special interests). As a result, there needs to be a more efficient and cost effective way to ensure our wild salmon have sufficient water to spawn, rear and migrate.
DNR recently opened a public comment period asking for ideas how to improve water management in Alaska. The comment period closes March 18 at 5 PM. Submit your comments to:
David W. Schade
Alaska Department of Natural Resources
550 West 7th Ave. Suite 1020
Anchorage, Alaska, 99501-3577
- Wild salmon need sufficient water to spawn, rear and migrate.
- Scientists predict air and stream temperatures will continue to increase across the state, changing the cold-water flows that salmon need to thrive.
- The current process to reserve water in fish streams is time-consuming and expensive, and a simple fix can save money while protecting our wild salmon.
- The burden to protect water for fish should fall on the company that wants to take water from a fish stream, not every day Alaskans who want to ensure healthy salmon runs for years to come.