Transboundary Meetings Called ‘Productive First Step’

Commercial fish harvesters say meetings between Alaskan and
British Columbia officials are a productive first step in resolving concerns
over mining near transboundary rivers critical to wild salmon.
“While cross-border cooperation is essential for protecting
fisheries, it involves more than provincial and state agreements regarding the
sharing of data and perspectives,” said Dale Kelley, executive director of the
Alaska Trollers Association. “Fishermen want commitments regarding the
watersheds that impact our fisheries to be backed up by the full force of the
US Government and Crown because that offers the greatest change that they will
be binding and upheld over time.”
Kelley and the environmental groups Salmon Beyond Borders
and Rivers Without Borders say that British Columbia’s aggressive program of mine
development in the transboundary region bordering on Southeast Alaska includes
projects that threaten clean water, wild salmon, tourism, indigenous
communities and Alaska’s unique way of life.
Thousands of Alaskans have asked that the International Joint
Commission, created under the Boundary Waters Treaty, examine potential risks
to Alaska posed by mining development in British Columbia.
Alaska Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott invited BC Minister of Energy
and Mines William Bennett to come to Southeast Alaska in late August to meet
with people whose lifestyle depends on healthy salmon production in those
rivers flowing from Canada into Southeast Alaska.
Both sides, said Mallott, are looking to build on existing
collaboration whereby members of Alaska’s large mine review team participate in
the environmental assessment and permitting processes relating to the
province’s authorization of development of transboundary mines.
Mallott said they would move forward on several fronts,
collaborating on a draft memorandum of understanding, and also exploring
federal engagement from Ottawa and the US State Department.

Chris Zimmer of Rivers Without Borders said he felt progress
had been made in demonstrating Alaskans’ concerns, but that his organization
stands firm for the need of an international solution under the Boundary Waters