Alaskans awaken to issues of mining, salmon and rivers we share with Canada – by Melanie Brown (Alaska Dispatch News – February 21, 2016)

Melanie Brown works with Salmon Beyond Borders to advocate for healthy watersheds in Southeast Alaska.

Although my parents are from Western Alaska, I consider myself lucky to have been born in Sitka. Work opportunities took our family northward, but my life led me back to Southeast Alaska, where I have chosen to raise my children.

It is a rich life with all the rivers, land and sea have to offer. We have friends who are good about sharing what they have and we are happy to reciprocate. We migrate along with the salmon to Bristol Bay every summer to be with our blood relatives and our home-river, but returning to Juneau for winter “fits our skin.” Not long after moving back here however, we learned of a looming threat to Southeast waters.

Many Alaskans are familiar with the proposed Pebble mine and its pros and cons. However, far fewer are aware of a similar issue in Southeast, where mines upstream in British Columbia threaten water quality and fisheries downstream in Alaska. The difference for Southeast is these mines provide little or no benefits to Alaska, only risks.

British Columbia’s mining boom in the watersheds of three major rivers shared by the U.S. and Canada not only concerns our state, but, because of the border, is an international issue.

The transboundary Taku, Stikine and Unuk rivers begin in northwest British Columbia and flow through Southeast to the sea. On the Canadian side, multiple large-scale mining projects rivaling the size of Pebble mine are in various stages of review, permitting and operation.

The Taku, Stikine and Unuk rivers are life-giving waters to cultures — Native and non-Native — that rely on the health of these waterways and what they provide for the people. A recently published commentary (ADN, Jan. 31 We Alaskans ) was a strong and hopeful indication that concern for these rivers is growing.

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