Alaska lawmakers call for alliance with other states on Canadian mining issues

A group of Alaska lawmakers wants to team up with Montana and other U.S.-Canada border states in a push to protect Southeast watersheds they say are threatened by rapid Canadian mining development.

In a letter dated April 20 and released Friday, 10 lawmakers ask Gov. Bill Walker to work with other U.S. states and the State Department to further protections for Southeast’s salmon-bearing rivers. Canadian mining development, they say, has continued to put the region’s fishing and tourism industries in peril.

At least a dozen mining projects are moving forward or are operating in the border-crossing Taku, Stikine and Unuk river watersheds, according to Salmon Beyond Borders. Alaska lacks financial protection from any harm the projects could cause to salmon habitat, the lawmakers say.

“This issue is the greatest threat facing Alaska’s commercial fishing industry,” Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, said.

The call for federal intervention on transboundary mines isn’t new. In November 2017, Walker and Alaska’s Congressional delegation wrote then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, asking for mediation from the State Department. Similar letters were sent to Secretary of State John Kerry, but were shot down. Tillerson no longer heads the State Department. Environmental groups have been pushing for federal level talks for some time.

Several states are also lobbying for federal intervention to protect from transboundary mining pollution. Washington senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, both Democrats, have been vocal about Canadian mining issues. Federal talks over mining pollution on Montana’s Kootenai River have already begun at the State Department level.

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