Alaska, Canada must safeguard fisheries from B.C. mining operations – by Dale Kelley and Louise Stutes (Alaska Dispatch News – August 3, 2017)

Rep. Louise Stutes serves Alaska House District 32, which includes Kodiak, Cordova and Yakutat. Dale Kelley has been executive director of the Alaska Trollers Association for nearly 30 years. She serves on the boards of several state and national fisheries organizations and federal advisory groups.

Legislators and fishing representatives may appear to have very different jobs, but the reality is that we are both charged with looking out for the best interests of the hard-working people we represent.

One issue of mutual concern is making sure Alaska communities do not suffer harm from Canadian mines under development in our shared watersheds. And, should the unthinkable occur, we want the responsible parties to clean up the mess and reimburse any losses. Currently, Alaska has no binding agreement with Canada to ensure that happens.

The third anniversary of the Mount Polley mine failure that sent 6.6 billion gallons of water and tailings into the Fraser River watershed is an important reminder of what can go terribly wrong, but is only one example of why Alaska, British Columbia, and our federal governments must develop a robust plan to mitigate any potential damages.

Like Alaska, Montana has a non-binding cooperative agreements with British Columbia covering a transboundary watershed. Open-pit coal mines sit in the headwaters of the Elk-Kootenai River system that flows from British Columbia to Montana. Since 1984, the water has become so toxic that it’s harmed U.S. fish stocks.

The U.S. Congress invested $3 million for research that revealed a flawed water assessment program. A $100 million state-of-the-art water treatment system failed and plans for a $600 million replacement are on hold. In the face of documented, chronic pollution, B.C. officials refused to require meaningful corrective measures from the mine operators, but they did allow four mine expansions.

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