Transboundary Issues Prompt Discussion

Alaska and British Columbia are getting closer to reaching a statement of cooperation on dealing with environmental concerns related to potential impact of mining on Transboundary rivers flowing into Southeast Alaska.

Alaska Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott said on Sept. 20 that that the SOC will likely be signed by the end of this month or early October. It will serve as a framework for Alaska to work as cooperatively as possible with the relevant ministries of British Columbia to create access for Alaska to their mine permitting processes, Mallott said.

The state’s goal is to assure that habitat critical to these salmon-rich rivers is not adversely affected by mines now operating and planned along the British Columbia side of the Transboundary Rivers.

Alaska concerns over acid mine drainage issues was heightened by recent reports that one of those mines, which has leaked acid drainage for years, is now in receivership.
Meanwhile, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation is moving ahead with plans to begin a five-year water monitoring effort in Southeast Alaska.

Michelle Hale, director of DEC’s Division of Water, said the plan is for DEC’s Alaska Monitoring and Assessment Program to sample lakes, rivers and some coastline.
The monitoring effort will include habitat, monitor pH and conductivity, metals in the water column, and metals in the sediment under water, and hydrocarbons.

Hale said that DEC will also work with its British Columbia counterparts through a technical work group, to assure that information collected by both sides can be compared in a meaningful way.

Alaska’s congressional delegation meanwhile has again requested that the State Department get involved under the Boundary Waters Treaty, to protect waterways that are critical to Southeast Alaska’s fisheries, waterways and cultural lifestyle.

The delegation is still waiting for a response.