Cook Inletkeeper works to ensure our state government protects our wild salmon. We fought the state when it authorized the industry to destroy 11 miles of Alaskan salmon streams for the proposed Chuitna Coal Mine. Our Government and industry repeatedly claim that they would never trade one of Alaska’s resources (salmon) for another (coal). Yet these claims are hollow. Now, the state wants to sacrifice our salmon for gold.
Cook Inletkeeper along with the sovereign nations of Orutsararmiut Native Council, Native Village of Eek, Native Village of Kwigillingok, and Chevak Native Village, represented by Earthjustice, have filed a lawsuit to force the state to reconsider the permit for the gas pipeline which will power the mine. The state has permitted a 315-mile right-of-way for the pipeline from the west side of Cook Inlet to the mine site near the Kuskokwim River in southwest Alaska. We know that this pipeline will damage over 11,000 acres of land during its installation and we know that over 400 streams will be impacted.
But the state doesn’t know how many of these streams are salmon habitat. We all know that baby salmon spend the winter in our streams and that changes in temperature and water levels can have serious impacts on our salmon. But we don’t know how many salmon or how much habitat this pipeline will hurt.
But the state has no idea how many salmon streams will be affected–instead promising Alaskans they will protect them through future permitting processes. Inletkeeper would like to know: How can the state possibly claim that the right-of-way is in the best interests of Alaskans as required by our constitution without knowing the impacts to our salmon first?
No one knows how the huge draw of natural gas will affect natural gas prices on the Kenai Peninsula and in the Anchorage bowl. Basic economics tells us that increased demand decreases supply and increases the price. Although industry tries to tell us that their increased demand will decrease price, this never seems to actually happen as these costs are often handed off to residential users.
The state has refused to consider the impacts of the whole mine project. Instead, the state pretends the pipeline is wholly separated from the mine. But we know that the mine will destroy 4.7 miles of fish streams, 5.6 miles of non-fish streams, or 8% of the Crooked Creek watershed as well as reducing water levels and impacting water temperatures. We know that the mine will violate state water quality standards for mercury.
We know that these cumulative impacts, and the resulting impact on the thousands of Alaskan families who rely on these salmon for traditional gathering, cannot be in Alaska’s public interest.
You may be feeling deja-vu right now. And you would be right. Tribes and Inletkeeper had this same concern in 2020 and brought this same lawsuit. Because of this pressure, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reversed its position and agreed to go back and complete a more thorough review of “cumulative and reasonably foreseeable impacts” of the project. But after another year, DNR issued the same decision, again indicating that this administration does not believe that they have to consider these cumulative impacts.
So, Inletkeeper and the Tribes are back in court. Again asking: DNR, why are you sacrificing Alaska’s salmon for Canadian companies’ profits?
Thank you for reading. We are able to do this work because of member support from concerned citizens like you. Please donate today to protect Cook Inlet for our future generations.