Today, Cook Inletkeeper joined four Native Tribes in a legal challenge to the Dunleavy Administration’s decision to let Donlin Gold build a 315 mile-long gas pipeline across hundreds of fish streams from Cook Inlet to Donlin’s mine site next to the Kuskokwim River. Lawyers from Earthjustice filed the lawsuit in Alaska Superior Court in Anchorage on behalf of Inletkeeper and Orutsararmiut Native Council, Chevak Native Village, Chuloonawick Native Village and the Native Village of Eek.
“The Dunleavy Administration hasn’t even tried to assess the sweeping impacts from this pipeline on our wild fish stocks,” said Inletkeeper’s Advocacy Director Bob Shavelson. “This case should make it clear to every Alaskan that Alaska’s permitting system is a complete farce.”
In its preliminary decision to authorize the pipeline, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources did not even know how many salmon streams the pipeline would cut-through, though the number is somewhere between 100-300.
Yet even with scant information and limited field studies, the Alaska Department of Fish & Game expects significant impacts to fish and fish habitat during pipeline construction from open-cut trenching and blasting activities around hundreds of streams, including disruption to migration, mortality to fish eggs in gravel, loss of riparian vegetation and changes to overwintering areas.
Inletkeeper submitted comments to DNR, calling out its complete failure to take a hard look at the pipeline’s impacts to fish and water resources. Predictably, however, DNR ignored the comments, and issued a final decision authorizing the pipeline with no changes.
This rubber-stamp approval process is nothing new at Donlin. For example, the State of Alaska already set a horrific precedent with the Donlin Gold mine in 2018 when it issued the first-ever fish habitat permits in state history to allow the complete destruction of salmon habitat and wild salmon runs.
The Donlin gold mine and the pipeline needed to fuel it are just the latest examples how Alaska’s permitting system favors large, Outside corporations over the interests of Alaskans who rely on our great state’s fish and water resources for their food, their culture and their livelihoods.