SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

Fund water quality monitoring on Stikine, Unuk, Taku
By Tammi Meissner


March 27, 2012

I was born and raised in Wrangell, and I live here with my husband and two daughters. I am Tlingit and I practice traditional food gathering. My family has a cabin at the mouth of the Stikine River, the fastest free flowing navigable river in North America, where we often live and where we fish. This river is the source of salmon that my family relies on to sustain us year round, and is the source of salmon that contributes to our community s fishing economy. The Stikine is also an important spiritual and cultural resource.

I recently became aware of two things. First, that there are extremely large open pit mining operations proposed, or in progress, near or in the headwaters of the lifeblood of my family, the Stikine. The Galore-Creek mine alone is anticipated to produce one billion tons of tailings that will remain in perpetuity above the Stikine. There are also large mines above the Unuk near Ketchikan, and the Taku, near Juneau.

Second, the State of Alaska does zero water quality monitoring on the Stikine, or the Unuk or Taku, to make sure these mines are not harming our rivers, and in turn our fish. Why? Because water quality monitoring is a pay-for-services system. Canadian mines do not generate revenue through permits, and in turn the State allocates no staff time to monitor our water.

This is unacceptable.

Toxic runoff from mine tailings does not recognize or respect political boarders or boundaries. I am not against mining or other job creating industries. Although, I do believe that monitoring should be done to ensure the protection of the salmon runs for the fishing industry as well as protection of the salmon for our traditional food gathering. This tailing waste, even miniscule amounts, could harm salmon s ability to return to spawning locations, and this will mean less salmon for my family and for our economy.

This also is unacceptable.

What can be done? The Alaska Legislature will soon be considering a budget that includes funding for the Department of Fish and Game. This budget should include funding to perform baseline and regular water quality monitoring on the Stikine, Unuk, and Taku Rivers. The Senate, and House, must support this appropriation, and in turn, protect our families, our economy, and our future.

Tammi Meissner
Wrangell, AK


About: "Past position as Wrangell SEARCH Traditional Foods
Past Johnson O'Malley (JOM) educator
BA in Elementary Education K-8th grade
Tlingit and Haida Tribal member
WCA (Wrangell Cooperative Association)local tribe member
Personally gather, hunt and fish traditional foods for personal and community use."

Received March 20, 2012 - Published March 27, 2012



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