Alaska Congressional Delegation Pushes for More Transboundary Rivers Protection

Alaska’s congressional delegation is urging federal action by the State Department and the Canadian government to protect salmon habitat in transboundary waters flowing from British Columbia into Southeast Alaska from potential pollution from mines.

Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, with Rep. Don Young, all R-Alaska, said in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the potential pollution impact of large-scale BC mines prompt an interest for continued bilateral engagement and coordination on a federal level between the two nations.

“Federal engagement is appropriate to compliment the state and provincial efforts, and to ensure British Columbia and Canada act to uphold the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909,” their letter to Blinken stated.

Congress has supported this effort for six years through allocation of funds for transboundary water quality monitoring, as well as funds for the State Department to increase engagement, but the issue has not seen the same level of consideration by Canada, or yielded full engagement by British Columbia, the politicians said.

The Alaska delegation noted that they had written to the State Department in October of 2018, outlining potential threats posed by BC mines to the economic, subsistence and ecological interests of Alaska. Following that, eight U.S. Senators from Alaska, Washington, Idaho and Montana collectively wrote to the B.C. government in 2019, expressing concerns for U.S. interests threatened by B.C. mines.

According to Jill Weitz, director of the conservation entity Salmon Beyond Borders, the delegation’s effort has the support of all sectors of Southeast Alaska, from Alaska Native tribes, commercial and sport fishermen to business owners and municipal governments.