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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

KSM mine threatens the Unuk river
By Victoria McDonald


November 30, 2012
Friday PM

Alaskans agree that plentiful salmon runs are an important part of our lifestyle. But 2012 ended with another year of low king returns. Statewide studies are searching for answers but if we were able to ask a fish, they'd supply an easy answer: "We need clean water and healthy habitat". In southern Southeast, numerous salmon spawn in the Unuk River tributaries so it is essential that water quality be safeguarded in the Unuk and other mainland rivers.

Seabridge Corp. of Toronto, Canada, will be starting the Environmental Assessment of the KSM project with plans for start up in 2014. The KSM rock tailings facility will be located next to Sulphurets Creek, a tributary of the Unuk. Opening up four mountains to heavy precipitation threatens the Unuk with chemicals that produce unknown reactions in salmon. Because the mine is in Canada, it requires the highest level of government involvement, involving our Governor and Representatives in Washington D.C. In fact, this is an issue that needs to go before the State Department.

The proposed KSM site is wet and steep with high seismic activity; the potential for discharge of adverse chemically tainted mine waste and water runoff is very high. The massive scale of this mine means any spill will have enormous and far reaching effects. If salmon runs on the Unuk are altered or destroyed by acid runoff, the native tribes will lose a significant subsistence and cultural resource. Commercial seiners, gillnetters and trollers will catch fewer kings, cohos, chums and pinks that utilize the Unuk. Sport fishermen in the Ketchikan area will lose clients. If we are to maintain economic security, we must protect our fish.

Contact our state legislators, Senators Murkowski and Begich and Congressman Young if you have a concern about this mine, or others planned for the Stikine and Taku. Transboundary mines situated on our main rivers demand the highest level of protection. I'd like to see more king salmon return to Mountain Point and Clover Pass, especially during our king salmon derby.

Victoria McDonald
Ketchikan, AK

About: "I've been a resident of Southeast since 1974, and have been a commercial salmon, halibut, black cod and shrimp fisherman . Alaska's clean water is essential if these fisheries are to continue."

Received November 28, 2012 - Published November 30, 2012





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