Change in state water regulations under review

The Alaska Department of Natural Resources is considering revising its regulations on water management, and seeking public input. 

Cook Inletkeeper and the Chuitna Citizens Coalition are suggesting finally implementing the “fish first” policy suggested by Gov. Bill  Walker’s transition team.

The two groups have been battling DNR over water rights in the Chuitna drainage on the west side of Cook Inlet, trying to prevent a strip coal mine from being built. The mine would destroy more than 13 miles of salmon-rich Middle Creek at the headwaters of the Chuitna River.

Specifically, DNR is seeking public input regarding the effectiveness of the existing regulatory framework related to water management. DNR is also asking members of the public and industry for their input regarding suggestions and proposals which would improve the regulations related to water management. 

Carly Weir, coal campaign director with Cook Inletkeeper, said depending upon who you talk to, there are several problems with the way DNR is currently doing business, but the poster child is Chuitna Citizens Coalition.

“They (CCC) followed all of the protocols and procedures, filed an application to keep enough water in the river for fish, and it took years of pressuring DNR and ultimately a lawsuit for (DNR) to process their application,” she said.

She added it cost tens of thousands of dollars and countless hours of effort to get through the application process, and it is still not done; a water reservation was only granted for one of the three permits. 

“What we’re really seeing from this perspective that there has to be a better, more common sense and efficient way for us to do some basic things as Alaskans, like keep water in our streams for fish,” Weir said.

There are no proposed or draft regulations at this time; the comment period that ends March 18 is just for gathering input about changes that might need to be made.

For more information or a copy of existing regulations, go to dnr.alaska.gov/mlw/hottopics, or contact Joe Joyner at Alaska Department of Natural Resources, 550 West 7th Avenue, Suite 1070, Anchorage, AK 99501, joe.joyner@alaska.gov, or 907-269-8511.

To submit comments or suggestions, write to David Schade, DNR, 550 W. 7th Ave, Ste. 1020, Anchorage, AK. 99501, or email to dnr.water.regulation@alaska.gov

For more information about the effects of the proposed mine on commercial and subsistence fishing, as well as suggested comment language, go to www.chuitna.org.

Cristy Fry can be reached at realist468@gmail.com.

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