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Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon

‘Pebble could pollute perfect, porous habitat’

ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS COMPASS: Other points of view

By JACK STANFORD

Published: July 25th, 2010 06:19 PM

Executives with Pebble Limited Partnership and some of their high-profile supporters, like former House Speaker Gail Phillips, have recently made misleading statements about the location and potential impacts of the proposed Pebble Mine.

They stated in public forums that Pebble is not located in the headwaters of Bristol Bay and that it would only affect about two streams out of some 42 similarly-sized streams in the project area, thus creating the false impression that this enormous copper and gold mine would cause minimal harm to the habitat of Bristol Bay’s great salmon fishery. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The argument that this giant mineral deposit is not in the headwaters of the Nushagak and the Kvichak Rivers relies on a dim notion that the headwaters is only the single stream in a watershed that is farthest from the ocean. Any thinking person knows that surface and ground waters flow downhill anywhere in a watershed, not just from the stream that’s farthest from the ocean. As someone who has taught river ecology for 40 years, I know that the headwaters are where small streams first start to flow throughout a watershed.

I began my career in 1967 on the shoreline of Alaska’s largest king salmon producing river, the Nushagak, near Ekwok. My job was to sit on a tower above the river and count the number and species of salmon swimming underneath to reach spawning grounds in the headwaters of the Nushagak. Sockeye, chum, chinook, pink and coho streamed by, sometimes faster than I could count them. Since then, I have worked in rivers around the world exploring how they create habitat for salmon and trout.

Bristol Bay is home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon run, and it’s a testament to the thoughtful management policies of the State of Alaska that it has remained so. The key to the high productivity of sockeye in Bristol Bay is the habitat, especially the abundance of clean lakes and the intimate connection between water flowing underground and at the surface. Bristol Bay is an inherently wet, porous place, where water moving between the ground and the surface provides the perfect place for salmon eggs to develop.

It is simply wishful thinking to assume that the Pebble prospect can be developed without long-term impacts on Bristol Bay salmon. Pebble would necessarily destroy salmon-bearing headwater streams outright and would very likely pollute many more. This has happened time and again with sulfide mines around the globe, and Pebble would be one of the largest and likely the most destructive headwaters removal mine ever conceived.

Any pollution from Pebble wouldn’t just affect salmon near the mine site; it would travel easily downstream, through surface and groundwater. In fact, the porous nature of the Bristol Bay watershed that makes it such a great producer of salmon also makes it especially vulnerable to the kind of pollution that is caused by copper sulfide mining.

In the end, a project like Pebble would put all of the salmon downstream from the site at risk; this means no less than all of the fish that return to and rear in the Nushugak, the Kvichak, Lake Iliamna and the vast majority of their tributaries. A mine of this magnitude is not just about the mine site and the pollution that could emanate from it, it’s also about the broader cumulative effects, whether it’s the haul roads that cross stream after stream and open up the entire area, leaks from the slurry pipelines or the multitude of mining claims whose owners stand ready to develop more mines if Pebble becomes a reality.

As an expert on rivers, I can say with authority that Bristol Bay is in nearly the same situation that faced the great salmon rivers in the Lower 48 before their salmon were lost to development, dams, pollution and other factors. The only real difference for Bristol Bay is that the decision can be informed by history.

On the other hand, wishfully thinking that you can have it all — a mining district and a thriving fishery — will take Bristol Bay down the same road as so many once-great salmon rivers.


Jack A. Stanford is a professor of ecology at the University of Montana.

Read more: http://www.adn.com/2010/07/25/1380983/pebble-could-pollute-perfect-porous.html#ixzz0uozjEvjj

No time to post for awhile but in the meantime…

 

Craig man accused of ramming humpback whales

by The Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A man accused of ramming two humpback whales in the waters near Craig has reportedly reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.

The Anchorage Daily News reports the deal calls for 44-year-old Kevin B. Carle to plead guilty to harassing whales. He would face a $1,000 fine and two years on probation.

Carle operated a 34-foot jet boat that ferried loggers and supplies between Craig and logging camps. Prosecutors say he veered to hit whales two times in 2008 in Trocadero Bay and near Breezy Bay.

Carle wouldn’t say why he rammed the whales. It’s unknown if they were injured.

Read more: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner – Craig man accused of ramming humpback whales

 

Judge lets anti-Pebble lawsuit go forward 

By ELIZABETH BLUEMINK

ebluemink@adn.com

A judge has declined to dismiss a court case alleging that state regulators violated the Alaska Constitution when they issued exploration and land-use permits to companies drilling at the Pebble copper and gold prospect in Southwest Alaska.

Lawyers for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources recently argued that all six counts of the civil lawsuit, filed by Pebble opponents, should be dismissed on summary judgment.

Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth on Friday dismissed one count in the lawsuit but allowed the others to proceed to trial. He also ruled that the trial will address only the permits at Pebble rather than the validity of the state’s permitting system for mineral exploration, in general…

Read more: http://www.adn.com/2010/07/13/1365307/judge-lets-anti-pebble-lawsuits.html#ixzz0tbiQfzKq

 

Woman chases black bear in effort to save pet rabbit

By LISA DEMER

ldemer@adn.com

HEARD PET’S CRIES: Woman pursued bruin in her stocking feet but couldn’t rescue rabbit.

A black bear snatched up a partially paralyzed pet rabbit from the owner’s yard in Muldoon on Thursday morning, and the rabbit’s owner gave chase. But she couldn’t rescue her bunny, named George, from the teeth of the bear…

…The owner heard her rabbit’s cries and chased the bear across several yards in her stocking feet, police said. She went down an alley before the bear turned and confronted her. But the bear didn’t give up the rabbit…

…George was known in the neighborhood because his back legs were paralyzed and he scooted around with the help of a two-wheeled cart fashioned by the owner, police said. The owner has a number of rabbits, said police Lt. Dave Parker. George was in the front yard inside a wire and wood fence that the bear jumped, Parker said…

Read more: http://www.adn.com/2010/07/08/1359438/woman-chases-black-bear-in-effort.html

 
 
 

Fort Knox tailings dam

‘Polluted water spilled at Fort Knox Gold Mine’

Associated Press – May 7, 2010 12:54 PM ET

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – A 2-acre area at the Fort Knox Gold Mine near Fairbanks is being dug up to remove pollution from a spill of water contaminated with a low concentration of cyanide.

The Department of Environmental Conservation told KTUU that most of the 300,000-gallon spill Wednesday was contained within a building. But, about 35,000 gallons flowed onto a gravel road and parking lot within the site.

The ‘what ifs’ of a similar spill occuring if Pebble Mine is approved would be catastrophic. Even tiny amounts of cyanide leaking into the saturated ground of Pebble would eventually find its way to the headwaters of fertile salmon spawning waters.

Keep in mind, Pebble will mine for gold as well as copper and molybdenum. One of the processes that will most likely be used to extract the ore from fine-ore bearing rocks will be to use xanthate floatation. This method of hard rock mining produces metal concentrates and billions of tons of waste rock based on Pebble’s projected size estimate. The waste rock has a label called PAG or potentially acid generating material. The PAG has the guaranteed effect of generating acid sulfides (i.e., sulfuric acid) when exposed to oxygen.

The processing chemicals of xanthates and *cyanide (*if cyanide extraction is used for removing gold from ore bearing rock as in Fort Knox’s processing method) and other metallic acid sulfide will be present in the billions of tons of tailings waste and would need to be ‘contained’ behind huge man-made earthen dams. The dams will need to be maintained from failure and the waste rock will need to be immersed under water forever. If the waste rock is exposed to air, the abundant oxygen levels will speed up the acidification process.

All of the above information about waste-rock tailings is just one potential scenario the Pebble Partnership may employ. Most of the higher quality ore-bearing rock is located deep within in an area labeled Pebble East. The most likely method for ore extraction in deep underground mines are by way of block caving. In this type of mining, ore-bearing rock is removed via an underground caving method on an industrial scale. In block caving, the method after ore-bearing rock is extracted is to induce collapse. The after-effect of the collapsing ground from above is an inevitable entry of water and oxygen which then is exposed to the waste rock thereby leading to acid sulfide decomposition on a grand scale. What results are high levels of acid sulfide deep underground with the high probability of mixing with and contaminating groundwater.

We cannot put our faith in foreign-owned corporations to protect our entire Bristol Bay region. One look at the BP oil rig explosion and subsequent ongoing massive oil spill is a testament to how even an established foreign-owned corporation doing business in North America is prone to a major failure of epic proportions.

There is no reason to justify cataclysmic risk for such an isolated, momentary reward.

 

FORT KNOX vs PEBBLE MINE 1

TARGET METALS

FORT KNOX – Gold Mine

PEBBLE MINE – Copper Mine w/ Gold and Molybdenum

 

PRODUCTION RATE

FORT KNOX – 36,000 – 50,000 tons/day

PEBBLE MINE – 100,000 – 200,000 tons/day

 

TAILINGS

FORT KNOX  – 200 million tons

PEBBLE MINE – 2.5 billion tons

 

WATER USAGE

FORT KNOX  – 4.9 cfs2

PEBBLE MINE – 114 cfs3

 

PROCESSING

FORT KNOX  – Cyanide Vat Leach

PEBBLE MINE – Xanthate Floatation

 

POTENTIALLY ACID GENERATING WASTE

FORT KNOX  – No

PEBBLE MINE – Yes

1This Fact Sheet was prepared by David Chambers, Center for Science in Public Participation, Feb 2007. It reflects information published by Kinross Gold (Fort Knox) and Northern Dynasty Mines (Pebble) from 2004 -2006.

Other articles:

‘Waste Disposal at the Pebble Mine’

http://www.ourbristolbay.com/waste-disposal.html

Rebirth

Alaskan winters are an ultimate test of endurance for fly fishers. The snow consistently arrives in October and lingers until May. With each start of spring there is a sense of rebirth and a blank slate. The cleansing quality of melting snow encompasses nearly every aspect of nature. The intermittent cold gusts of wind are in constant competition with warmer more stagnant pockets and tickle exposed faces and hands.  

In the early spring, before the heavy melt-off begins, creeks and rivers run colder and clearer than they will all season. Wildlife re-emerge from their dens and arrive in from far-off migrations. In an instant new signs of life are everywhere.

Of all of the things that you would think would remain the same are the rivers which change just as readily as everything else. Places where you crossed easily the year prior are now uncrossable with the shifting of channels. There is a comfort that comes with the changes along with a deep respect of the power and forces at work.

Each year when I wade out in my favorite river for the first time I stop, take a deep breath and admire the beauty that goes beyond aesthetics. There is a balance that one can only experience for themselves firsthand. The eagles in the tallest trees, the trumpeter swans in the open pools and me wading downstream towards the head of the next run.

Ghost Fishers

Spring in Alaska is slowly trickling along away from the now half-year long winter. The April snowstorm two days prior that left mouths agape and 8 inches of white is losing ground to steamy, wet pavement. The season’s first trip has been set and nothing can keep us away from the river.

The popularity of our sport in Alaska has increased in the past decade. Couple this increased interest with little to no additional access to remote waters and the locals have become overcrowded.  In an attempt to maintain as much of the ‘old days’ as possible, experienced fly fishers have resorted to stealth not in terms of fishing per se but as a way of keeping favorite runs secret.

Hero shots of proud fly fishers holding their prize with ear-to-ear grins are great as long as proper fish handling and photo cropping are done to hide the exact location of the catch. In today’s online and real-time society, a hero shot can be spread in a matter of microseconds worldwide. More damage can be done with one photo and description of the where, when and what was used to catch the trout than any other method.

We are fortunate to live in a place like Alaska. Everyone has the right to enjoy her resources as long as we do a part in maintaining and even improving watersheds. Exploration, trial and error are what make many experiences that much more memorable rather than browsing to get any and all answers. The same method goes in becoming a truly experienced fly fisher.

Patience…

March Snowstorm Update:

Today’s Alyeska Snow Report

 

Location New Snow Last 12h New Snow Last 24h Avg. Snow Depth Temp (F) Wind (MPH) Visibility Conditions Snow Conditions – Main Trails Snow Conditions – Off Trail
Base 33″ 33″ 61″ 21F 5 – 15 mph Fair Snow Powder Powder
Midway 36″ 36″ 162″ 16F 5 – 15 mph Poor Snow Powder Powder
Top of Six 40″ 40″ 194″ 15F 15 – 30mph Poor Snow Powder Powder
Total Snowfall This Season: 635″

Snowshoes anyone?

Pre-Season…

February is coming to a close and the temps outside read a balmy 31 degrees. This winter has been mild with the big rivers south of town staying relatively open. Even the local small creeks are showing their welcome ripples.

A gathering is in the works for yet another fly tying, beer sipping session. Yes, it is almost here… another season of fly fishing in Alaska. The year is feeling reminiscent of 2007 when we had spring temps in the 50’s and even low 60’s.

The plan for this year is to simplify. Gear has been refined to provide quality, all around functionality. The sealed drag reels are shelved for the old clickers in an ode to the past where fly line burns and handle bruises will be a welcome experience.

As another year goes by so does the allure of numbers. With each passing year the quality of the entire experience trends upwards as the frantic numbers game of yesterday steadily drops.

I read a post awhile back that compared fly fishing to a religion. For me, fly fishing is a spiritual experience that only gets better with age. Here’s to another great year!