Court Spanks DNR for Violating Alaskans’ Rights to Protect Wild Salmon
Alaskans are pushing the Stand for Salmon Initiative because we know our permitting system favors big corporations over everyday Alaskans concerned about fish habitat protection. Here’s a perfect example. In […]
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Alaskans are pushing the Stand for Salmon Initiative because we know our permitting system favors big corporations over everyday Alaskans concerned about fish habitat protection.

Here’s a perfect example.

In 2009, a group of Alaskans filed an application with the Alaska DNR to reserve water in a stream on the west side of Cook Inlet to protect wild salmon.  Under state water law, people and corporations may take water out of a stream and put it to a beneficial use. But Alaskans may also “reserve” water in streams to protect fish and wildlife.  It’s called a “water reservation” or an “instream flow reservation,” and it’s just common sense: Alaskans should be able to remove water from a stream – or, keep water in a stream – to serve a beneficial purpose.

DNR sat on the water reservation applications for 4 years, forcing a lawsuit for its failure to act. The court ruled that DNR had illegally dragged its feet, and ordered the agency to make a decision on the instream flow applications. After more delay, DNR finally granted a water reservation in 2015.

Of course, the big mining, oil and gas corporations appealed – because while they are fine with corporations having the right to take water out of streams for industrial uses, they hate the notion of Alaskans keeping water in the streams to protect our wild salmon.  These are many of the same corporations – represented by the Alaska Miners Association, the Resource Development Council and others – who are pouring massive Outside funding into the fight against the Stand for Salmon Initiative.

Then, two more years of delay from DNR, until late 2017, when DNR Commissioner Andy Mack twisted the facts and law into an unrecognizable ratball and decided to require an entirely new decision.

Once again, the issue went before the court, and last week Alaska Superior Judge Rindner was plainly tired with DNR’s recalcitrance when he wrote:  “[t]he court allowed DNR to proceed on its own, expecting that DNR would proceed in good faith to issue final adjudications.   Unfortunately, the court’s trust in DNR appears to have been misplaced.”

Judge Rindner went on to spank DNR for violating the petitioner’s constitutional rights, before ordering DNR to make a final decision by June 30, 2018.

So, what’s this have to do with the Stand for Salmon Initiative? It’s relevant because it shows in vivid detail how our government bureaucrats work hand-in-hand with the state’s biggest corporations to subvert the rights of everyday Alaskans who want to protect our wild salmon.

It happens with our salmon habitat permitting. It happens with our instream flow rights. It happens in our critical habitat areas and our wildlife refuges and our game sanctuaries.

But Alaska has some of the last remaining wild fish stocks in the world.  So why is it so hard for Alaskans to protect our wild salmon? Why do these big powerful corporations throw millions of dollars at bogus propaganda campaigns meant to confuse Alaskans?

The answer, unfortunately, is simple: it’s about the money.