How Much Are Alaska’s Most Outstanding Waters Worth to You?
UPDATE: February 2020. The Alaska Miners Association failed to secure passage of legislation to prevent Alaskans from protecting our most important water resources last session. So, what’s a well-heeled mining […]
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UPDATE: February 2020. The Alaska Miners Association failed to secure passage of legislation to prevent Alaskans from protecting our most important water resources last session. So, what’s a well-heeled mining trade group with a fancy lobbyist to do? Keep pushing.

Now, the Alaska Mining Association has amended the original legislation (HB 138), with a tried and true scheme to stop Alaskans from safeguarding our most important waters: bureaucratic paralysis. Under the proposed bill language, Alaska would create a new committee to consider nominations for so-called “Tier 3 waters” (see below), and if the committee agrees, it could forward the nomination to the Alaska Legislature for a final vote.

That means a couple things. First, a new committee will mean more government spending, because the committee members have to travel to meetings, receive per diems, etc. Second, it creates a convoluted process rife with political uncertainly that will ultimately kill any effort to protect Alaska waters at the highest level under the Clean Water Act.

Once again, the AMA is paying uber-lobbyist Kent Dawson $60,000 to shepherd HB 138 across the finish line (same amount as last year).

The House Resources Committee will hear HB 138 at 1 PM this Friday, February 14. If you think Alaskans have a right to protect our most spectacular water resources, make time to go to your local LIO to testify.

Original Post: April 2019: How Much Are Alaska’s Most Outstanding Waters Worth to You?

The Alaska Miners Association (AMA) is trying to buy Alaska’s most spectacular water resources. And they want them for the bargain basement price of $60,000.

That’s how much the AMA is paying veteran Juneau lobbyist Kent Dawson to put a stake through the heart of the process to designate and protect Alaska’s most important water resources, our so-called Outstanding National Resource Waters.

From the Alaska Public Offices Commission:

A little background. The Clean Water Act groups our waters into three categories. Tier 1 waters are polluted; they don’t meet state standards but they can still accept additional pollution discharges. Tier 2 waters meet state water quality standards, and they can also accept pollution discharges. Today, all waters in Alaska are either Tier 1 or 2.

Tier 3 waters are the best of the best.  Congress empowered every state to protect its most outstanding waterbodies with the highest level of protection – where water quality must be maintained, and no new pollution discharges are allowed.  In other words, Congress recognized what every Alaskan already knows: some lakes and rivers are so unique and important, they should not be dumping grounds for mining and other wastes.

Under pressure from the mining industry and others, however, the State of Alaska has NEVER designated a waterbody as Tier 3 waters. And if the mining industry has its way with the bills its helped draft – Senate Bill 51 and House Bill 138 – we’ll never see these national treasures protected. That’s because these bills leave Tier 3 designations to the Legislature, which is subject to the powerful influence of industry lobbyists, and which lacks the time and expertise to deliberate on Tier 3 issues.

The staff experts at the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation are much better-suited to consider and adopt protections for our Outstanding National Resource Waters.

Of course this is not some anomaly from the AMA. In fact, it’s engrained in the Alaska Miners Association’s organizational DNA to oppose any efforts to improve fish habitat safeguards, and to rollback any habitat protections that get in their way.

Most recently, the AMA played a key role bankrolling the anti-salmon opposition to Ballot Measure 1, the Stand for Salmon Initiative.  AMA members, including the Pebble Partnership, dumped more than $ 5 million into the effort to stop Alaskans from updating our 60-year-old, one-sentence-long fish habitat protection law. Now, with large projects such as the Pebble and Donlin mines moving forward, Alaskans have no opportunity to know about, let alone comment on, permits that will impact or destroy our wild fish habitat.

The mining industry successfully lobbied the George W. Bush Administration to change longstanding rules to turn Lower Slate Lake in the Tongass National Forest into a dumping ground for mining waste.

But if you want to understand just how far the mining industry will go to undermine fish habitat protections, you need look no further than their efforts to allow polluting mixing zones in fish spawning areas.

Mixing zones embrace the long-discounted idea that dilution is the solution to pollution, and since statehood, Alaska had rightly banned them in fish spawning habitat. Then, in 2004, the Alaska Mining Association and its members pressed then-Governor Frank Murkowski to change the rules to make it easier to dump mining wastes into our sensitive spawning areas.

Fortunately, the federal EPA sat on the rules change, and refused to approve them. But now, the Trump Administration is dusting them off and will decide by September 2019 whether to allow them.

Across the nation and across the world, mining corporations have wreaked havoc on fish habitat and the laws designed to protect it. In Alaska, we still have a chance to get it right, but the window is closing fast.

Tell the House Resources Committee and the Senate Resources Committee to reject HB 138 & SB 51. Tell them Article VIII of the Alaska Constitution makes us all owners of the state’s fish and water resources, and while we have a right to use them responsibly, we have a corresponding obligation to protect them for our kids.

And tell them the Alaska Miners Association should not be able to buy Alaska’s most spectacular water resources.