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Posts Tagged ‘Northern Dynasty Minerals’

EPA chief hears mine opponents at Bristol Bay meeting

By MARGARET BAUMAN
Dutch Harbor Fisherman via The Associated Press

Published: August 4th, 2010 03:59 PM
Last Modified: August 4th, 2010 09:50 PM

DILLINGHAM — One by one, representatives of a dozen Southwest Alaska communities stood to tell the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of the threat they feel the massive Pebble mine prospect would pose to their way of life.

“If you take away who we are, our natural resources, that would be terminating us as a people,” Mary Ann Johnson from the tribal council of Portage Creek told EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson last week, during a listening session at Dillingham High School.

“The salmon have saved people from starvation,” said Dennis Andrew, of the village of New Stuyahok, noting the importance of the Bristol Bay watershed’s abundance to both people and wildlife. “It is so important that they continue to spawn in our waters.”

The event, billed by EPA as a listening session on the massive copper, gold, silver and molybdenum deposit that could be mined at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, attracted only opponents.

Supporters, including representatives of Iliamna Development Corp., who say the prospect poses a tremendous opportunity for economic development, were not in attendance.

Jackson had met earlier in Anchorage with representatives of the Pebble Limited Partnership, which has said it will invest up to $73 million in Alaska this year as part of its ongoing effort to advance the project. According to the Pebble Partnership, the mine prospect has one of the largest concentrations of copper, gold, molybdenum and silver in the world.

Those speaking to the EPA at the listening session spoke of other riches. They are the sons and daughters of Eskimo families who have inhabited this region for thousands of years, engaging in a subsistence lifestyle dependent upon the fish and sea mammals in the waters of Bristol Bay and a land bountiful in wildlife and berries.

“We lead a very rich lifestyle in a resource-rich area,” said Tom Tilden, first chief of the Curyung Tribal Council in Dillingham. “We can continue to live in this area as long as the resources are protected.”

“Bristol Bay is a national treasure that we must protect,” said Robin Samuelsen, president and chief executive officer of Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. “Bristol Bay is one of those rare areas where we should not mine.”

“We believe,” said Kimberly Williams, executive director of Nunamta Aulukestai, Caretakers of the Land, “that our life is just so worth protecting. We are not going to go away; we’re going to keep fighting” (to protect the Bristol Bay watershed).

Jackson, who holds a master’s in chemical engineering from Princeton University, opened the meeting with greetings from President Barack Obama. She told the group that Obama wants his administration to talk with tribes on a government-to-government basis.

She also told several dozen people gathered in the high school gymnasium “that there is no such thing as a choice between a job and clean water. You are entitled to both.”

Jackson, who grew up in coastal Louisiana, said life there was tough “but I will take my hat off to the people who make their living here,” a reference to the challenges of living in rural Alaska and the subsistence lifestyle.

The speakers’ list ranged from Jason Metrokin, president and chief executive officer of the Bristol Bay Native Corp., to Bella Hammond of Lake Clark, widow of former Gov. Jay Hammond, who received a standing ovation.

Others included former Alaska Senate President Rick Halford, a technical advisor to Nunamta Aulukestai and Trout Unlimited; Dillingham city planner Jody Seitz, and Anchorage attorney Jeff Parker, representing the community of Nondalton.

Major concerns voiced were the importance of maintaining pollution-free waters critical to subsistence and the Yup’ik Eskimo culture, as well as the multi-million dollar commercial and sport fishing industry.

Some focused on potential activities at the proposed mine that they believe could forever contaminate the watershed critical to all life in the region. Others contended that activities during the prospect’s exploration phase are damaging king salmon runs and causing many animals in the Mulchatna caribou herd to migrate elsewhere.

“Moose and caribou are an important part of our diet,” said Peter Christopher of New Stuyahok. Exploration activities at the mine site have scared off 75 percent of the Mulchatna herd, he said.

“The mine could affect the Nushagak, which is our aquifer,” Seitz said.

The city of Dillingham opposes Pebble, she said. “Fisheries are a critical piece of the economy.”

Many speakers also addressed a need for a closer relationship between the federal and tribal governments, and said the state does not support the tribes.

The listening session was preceded by a potluck luncheon featuring a number of popular area foods, including moose, salmon, duck, muktuk and fried bread, plus salads and large bowls of akutaq – Eskimo ice cream – filled with berries abundant in the region.

Read more: http://www.adn.com/2010/08/04/1395461/epa-chief-hears-mine-opponents.html#ixzz0vi4wfFF5

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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

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UPDATED: from Midcurrent…

Former Alaska First Lady Part of New Pebble Mine Suit

By Marshall Cutchin

The big news out of Alaska yesterday afternoon was that former Alaska First Lady Bella Hammond has filed suit, along with native Alaskan representatives and other individuals, against the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. They say the DNR has repeatedly violated the state constitution by allowing mining exploration without regard for the public interest and without required oversight. “‘DNR has neglected its legal and moral obligation to protect Bristol Bay’s subsistence resources,’ said Bobby Andrew, spokesman for Nunamta Aulukestai, a lead plaintiff. ‘Current exploration is having a serious impact on water and wildlife, yet the agency continues to rubber stamp permits and ignore the public interest.'”

Read the entire story at Midcurrent: http://www.midcurrent.com/news/2009/07/former-alaska-first-lady-part.html

Posted on Moldy Chum’s site: Bristol Bay Native Leaders to Hold Press Briefing

Alaska Native leaders from the Bristol Bay region will hold a press event, which will be available by teleconference, in Anchorage this Wednesday to announce a significant new development in the long-running controversy over exploration and development of the Pebble mine project.

WHO:
· Bobby Andrew, board member of Nunamta Aulukestai (Caretakers of our Lands)
· Jack Hobson, Nondalton resident
· Other speakers (TBA)

WHEN:
Press Conference and Telephone Briefing
Wednesday, July 29, 2009,
10 AM Alaska Time

WHERE:
In-Person
:
Marriot Hotel at H and 7th Streets
Skagway Valdez Room
Anchorage, Alaska
Parking available at Municipal Garage

By Telephone:
Call-in number: 800-311-9402
Passcode: 5729

VISUALS:
In addition to the speakers, there will be maps and photos ready for download

CONTACT:
Harlin Savage, Resource Media, (720) 564-05500, ext. 11, harlin@resource-media.org
Lynda Giguere, Resource Media-Alaska (907) 771-4020, lynda@resource-media.org

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Gone Fishin' | Photo: www.alaskaseafood.org

Gone Fishin' | Photo: http://www.alaskaseafood.org

In a world full of leaders with massive, blinding egos, ours takes the cake. To say that Sarah Palin is inconsistent is like saying Michael Jackson is not getting enough press coverage. Just days after announcing her ‘official’ premature extraction from Alaska’s highest office, Sarah Palin is now fishing in Bristol Bay. Yes, the very same Bristol Bay in which she is in favor of exploiting for mineral wealth via the Pebble Mine.

Her support of Anglo and Northern Dynasty Minerals is now common knowledge (see: https://tspey.wordpress.com/2008/08/27/down-but-not-out/) made more evident by the fact that the Palin family has taken gifts and paid trips from pro-Pebble Mine suppporters (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/25/AR2008092503988_pf.html).

In an age when one’s actions speak louder than their lies even steadfast supporters of Palin are now smacking into the broken glass-lined wall of reality. Yes, we have been hoodwinked into thinking that this person was much more than what she really is.

Alaskan politics of late has been marred with corruption. Speculation abounds that Palin’s decision may be a pre-emptive action against this nasty ‘c’ word. Alaskans have been forcefully spoon-fed this type of mush for too long. The time has passed for personal-gain politicos who have worn out their welcome.

The decision to quit makes no sense politically. What is the real reason for Palin’s fall? Family? Tired of the spotlight? Greed? So far up in Alaska, the latter is the speculative and all too common assumption.

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Alaska’s own Governor Sarah Palin spoke out Wednesday in opposition to the Clean Water Initiative #4… Palin cannot advocate for or against a ballot measure, officially, but she took what she calls “personal privilege” to discuss Ballot Measure 4.”Let me take my governor’s hat off just for a minute here and tell you, personally, Prop 4, I vote no on that. I have all the confidence in the world that the Department of Environmental Conservation and our Department of Natural Resources have great, very stringent regulations and policies already in place. We’re going to make sure that mines operate only safely, and soundly,” said Palin. 

In addition to Palin’s remarks, the State of Alaska has created a website “explaining” what prop #4 entails. It is clear from browsing the site where the state’s position is on the Clean Water measure (against).

Alaskans for Clean Water has filed a complaint against DNR for the recently-launched state website meant to clarify the issue for voters. The group believes the state is illegally staking its position on the proposition before Alaskans vote next Tuesday. A spokesman for the group called Palin’s comments “highly unethical.” The former Bristol Bay commercial fisher Palin has fallen as quickly as she has ascended. She was elected on her ‘transparency in government’ pledge. (google: “Frank Bailey” “Sarah Palin” “abuse of power” for more details).

In addition to Palin’s remarks what is MOST troubling is that the figures and charts on the state website are THE SAME data provided by the mining industry. How can we trust DNR to protect clean water when the mining industry is supplying the data to the state?

Who can we trust? It is up to Alaskans to protect our water for the future. Vote YES on the Clean Water Initiative Prop #4 on Tuesday, August 26th.

BREAKING NEWS:

As of 8/21/08 APOC (Alaska Public Offices Commission) ruled that the state website http://www.dnr.state.ak.us/opmp/mini…nitiatives.htm must be taken off line. APOC also said that no state official should criticize Measure 4 publicly. Also, APOC contested DNR’s claim on the Web site that Measure 4 would apply to existing mines.

How sad is it that the site had many thousands of hits. The damage is done and who knows what the ramifications will be. Alaska is truly in a sad state of affairs. Corruption is rampant, mining companies seem to have a heavy hand in the governor’s administration, in DNR, and on and on… I apologize for my ramblings but are we that blinded by $ signs?

Alaskans cannot afford to put blind faith in our governor, in her DNR and the British and Canadian mining companies that can almost taste Pebble. Vote YES on #4.

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Read this insightful article written by Dr. Bruce Switzer in today’s Anchorage Daily News.

 

COMPASS: Other points of view

By BRUCE SWITZER

 

Published: August 18th, 2008 10:24 PM
Last Modified: August 18th, 2008 10:42 PM

 

Ballot Measure 4, “An Act to Protect Alaska’s Clean Water,” is focused on preventing the certain disaster threatening the world’s largest salmon run — the Pebble Mine. Nothing more, nothing less.

 

Its intention is simple: mining companies cannot destroy salmon spawning streams or discharge mine waste into these streams in amounts exceeding federal and state water quality standards. “Mixing zones” would be prohibited in salmon spawning streams. Despite our opponents’ rhetoric, we support mining in Alaska. Pebble is simply the wrong mine in the wrong place, and the risk to Bristol Bay is far too great.

This is why the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council, made up of 200 Native villages, endorsed Ballot Measure 4.

 

Every sulphide mine in conditions remotely resembling Pebble has polluted the surrounding waters. No acid-generating mine has ever been built in an environment as economically important and ecologically significant as Pebble, let alone where the ground is saturated; the water table is at the surface, and where experts predict a quake of magnitude 7.7 or greater.

 

If this is not enough, consider that the companies involved in developing Pebble have no experience in northern mining. Anglo American has never planned or built a mine in North America, let alone under the extremely difficult conditions at Pebble. Their partner, Northern Dynasty, has never planned or built anything. In its 2004 annual report, Northern Dynasty stated that Pebble is probably uninsurable because of accidents, spills, earthquake and “catastrophe.” Yet these companies want to build the largest-open pit sulfide mine in North America with the largest tailings dam ever built to hold back the tailings.

 

Who will monitor this toxic waste after the mine is closed? Sooner or later, the ground will shake, and with the weight of the tailings dam and the naturally unstable geomorphology of the ground, billions of gallons of toxic tailings will slide down to the sea.

 

Our opponents want you to believe that this is not about Pebble. Why then has 53 percent of the $8.2 million they have thus far spent opposing us come from the Pebble Partnership? They say that Ballot Measure 4 does not even mention Pebble. Of course it doesn’t; by constitutional law it can’t. They say it was written and proposed in secret. As if the Alaskans who gathered 30,000 signatures did it secretly?

 

The mining industry has attacked us for receiving donations from Americans for Job Security, but South African, British, and Canadian companies who call themselves “Alaskans Against the Mining Shutdown” have provided over 91 percent of the funds opposing us.

 

Our opponents claim Alaska salmon are already protected by the most stringent environmental regulations in the world. This is false. Before Gov. Murkowski, Alaska regulations were solid and reasonable, but not now. In fact, the Fraser Institute, a pro-mining archconservative think-tank, conducted a 2007 survey of international mining company executives and reported that of 117 states, provinces and countries, only nine had lower taxes and easier environmental regulations than Alaska, and that only one state in the Union was more friendly to mining — Nevada. Finally, consider this: all five operating hard rock mines in Alaska were permitted under pre-Murkowski regulations more rigorous than anything proposed under Measure 4.

 

If passed, new, large-scale metal mines may need to devote more attention to environmental protection during mine construction and operation. But, in most circumstances, already proven mining methods and technologies are available to accommodate the intention of Measure 4. Waste dumps can be set back from salmon streams, diversion ditches can capture toxic waste at the dump toe and divert it to a treatment plant, well-designed bridges can be built to cross streams instead of haphazardly installed culverts, and so on.

 

Ballot Initiative 4 does not shut down the mining industry. Existing mines are excluded; expansion of existing mines is excluded; and mines of fewer than 640 acres are excluded. If there is any question about this, the state can amend the act to strengthen the clear intent laid out in the initiative. Most mines could protect salmon streams — but not in Bristol Bay.

 

link: http://www.adn.com/opinion/story/497998.html

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The issue of Pebble Mine exudes emotions. The anti-Pebble Mine side sees the possibility of unimaginable consequences for future generations. The pro-Pebble side sees something quite different. To put it simply, the development side sees dollar signs. As Alaskans you must ask yourselves… at what cost?

 

A fight has been waged that pits billions of dollars of mineral wealth versus the priceless resources centered around the world’s largest salmon fishery. The impact of allowing such a massive mine at the headwaters of this salmon fishery is staggering. Acid sulfide toxic runoff is the norm for this type of mine. Throw in a natural disaster in this highly earthquake prone region and catastrophe will ensue.

 

The Jan, 2000 tailings dam failure in Romania that sent cyanide into 2000 km of rivers downstream of the dam was BUILT BY THE SAME FIRM (Knight-Piésold) that NDM and Anglo American has hired to design Pebble’s 2 massive tailings dams. http://www.wise-uranium.org/mdafbm.html …”The investigation concluded that the accident was caused by the inappropriately designed tailings dams, the inadequate monitoring of the construction and operation of those dams and by severe – though not exceptional – weather conditions.” (Australian Broadcasting Corporation Dec.16, 2000).

 

There are many reasons to stand up against the development of this mine in this area. Undoubtedly you have seen or heard the flood of commercials on the air waves, newspapers, magazines and television. The various pro-Pebble Mine ads primarily feature just two reasons as to why we should mine Pebble. The first type of ad features some local Alaskans who are in support of the mine. Their claim is that they need the mine to economically survive in this time of skyrocketing costs.

 

After watching the next pro-Pebble ad such as the one described above STOP. Think about how long the local people will benefit. Think about what they and we must give up. Think about who will benefit the most.

 

The truth is that Alaska would receive just 0.1% in mining royalties while salmon in Bristol Bay brings in over 300 million/year in revenue to the state. Sport fishermen and hunters in the region bring in over 60 million/year to the state and local economy. Approximately 1,000 people will receive employment that may last 50 years. Consider that these 1,000 temporary jobs would jeopardize 5,000-10,000 permanent salmon fishing and tourism jobs should even a small amount of toxic run-off appear in the streams downriver from the mine. The thousands of sport-fishermen who spend millions each year on pristine once-in-a-lifetime trips will no longer come. Take all of this into account and consider the majority of the profits would go to the Canadian-owned Northern Dynasty Minerals and the South African-owned Anglo American mining conglomerate.

 

The estimated current total value of minerals of the Pebble Prospect is between $350-500 billion x 0.1% = 350-500 million / 50 years (approx. life of the mine) = just $7-$10 million/year in state royalties. This is only if current record-high commodity prices hold. The rest of the profits go to Anglo American (South Africa) and Northern Dynasty (Canada). Economically speaking, that’s $360 million/year from salmon (a renewable resource) versus $7-$10 million/year from Pebble Mine (a limited resource that has the potential to wipe out all of the salmon from the region)… The math just doesn’t add up.

 

The mine may last 40, 50 or 60 years. After which you have a massive hole in the ground and 2 equally massive earthen dams holding toxic-leeching mining by-products. Time and exposure to air and water only further oxidizes and makes more contaminants. Water has this funny thing of wanting to flow. Either down through the ground or down a gradient. Either helped by earthquakes which will de-stabilize the dams or by evaporation. There is NO WAY of permanently containing 2 large bodies of contaminated waste indefinitely.  

 

In truth, there are only a small portion of Native Alaskans that support Pebble Mine. The majority of Alaskan Natives stand firm against what they see as a direct threat to their way of life. Most know that salmon have and will sustain their way of life indefinitely. So long as we responsibly care for the areas surrounding the vital renewable resource.

 

The second claim the pro-Pebble side likes to throw around in their commercials is that the ‘anti-mining’ initiative is written in a way that will shut down all large mines in Alaska now and in the future. This claim is complete fear-mongering typical of a big money, foreign-owned mining company. These companies rely on their bottom-less pocket books to generate fear through propaganda. They bank on the hopes that the target (all Alaskans) will not research and vote based on fear. The fact of the matter is that Prop #4 was written to protect salmon. Specifically, #4 seeks to re-institute salmon protection measures that were erased by a mining lobby friendly Murkowski administration.

 

Recently, NDM and Anglo have financed commercials saying that voting for #4 is un-Alaskan. What gives the 2 foreign-owned mining companies the right to say who is un-Alaskan. Anglo American has one of the world’s worst environmental and human rights records. The mining companies are pouring upwards of $10 million in ads that smear and distort the fact that no mine of Pebble’s size has ever been successful in not polluting the environment. Given NDM and Anglo’s track record, why should we risk or believe otherwise at such a huge cost?    

 

The bottom line is that we have a duty to protect a salmon resource that can continue to provide food, jobs and tourism indefinitely. We as Alaskans must lead in this effort. Many in our local and state government and in our politically appointed positions are influenced by powerful lobbys. One can look no further than the disgrace of Veco and its dealings with both our state and national legislators. If the Clean Water Initiative fails and the mining company permitting process is allowed to proceed expect a swift approval from a Murkowski-diluted large scale mining permitting process from the Department of Natural Resources.

 

Can we rely on a foreign-owned company to direct how the future of our state will proceed? I for one am not willing to take that bet and am prepared to fight for a future with one less pebble in my wading boot.

 

VOTE TUESDAY, AUG. 26TH. YES ON #4. YES 4 FISH.

Please forward this link to as many people you know.Thank you.

 

Get involved:

http://www.renewableresourcescoalition.org/pebble_mine.htm

http://www.bristolbayalliance.com/index.htm

http://feltsoulmedia.wordpress.com/

 

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Spring Leopard | Photo by J. Hasegawa

My first trout on the fly is a cherished memory. I was 12 years old. It was caught with a polar shrimp fly that I had found on the bank earlier that day. After eagerly casting my Dad’s 9 weight fly rod out into the blue-gray waters of the Kenai, I watched as it disappeared from my sight. The take was unexpected and sharp. For the first time, I felt the difference between fly-fishing for trout and fishing for salmon. A huge rush pulsed through me with each fresh run and jump of the trout. I was laughing out loud looking for my Dad. As I gained control and brought her in I took a glance around… no one, not a soul. The salmon fishing crowds were 100 yards downstream, packed shoulder-to-shoulder as far as the eye could see.

Time stopped for those few minutes as I carefully reeled in the beautiful rainbow. This one fish changed my fishing life. I remember holding it, looking at the beautiful coloration. The river sounded different from then on, more vivid and clear. It was and still is a great memory.

I first used my Dad’s heavy salmon fly rods for trout and then later saved up enough allowance for a real trout rod and reel. At 14, I bought my first fly rod; a 4 weight Sage with a Ross Cimarron reel. It was my most cherished possession. I would tag along on every one of my Dad’s, friend’s or relative’s fishing trips. Rarely fishing for salmon, I would trek off on my own to the upper Russian or to various parts of the Kenai away from the crowds.

26″ Local Dolly | Photo by J.Kim

The day after passing my driver’s test I drove to the Russian for a weekend of fly fishing with my longtime fishing buddy RP (The Big Pull). Dozens upon dozens of trips followed. During Summers we would go on a trip every week. During school, we would skip a Friday here or a Monday there to extend the weekend on the river. At 16 we became obsessed with floating the Kenai. At 17 we would hike into bear-infested streams on the Kenai Peninsula or off the Alaska Highway. On one memorable trip, we had a train drop us off near a stream in the heart of Alaska for a week of  heaven, dry-flying for rainbows and trophy grayling that had never before seen a fly. On another trip, we hiked 10 miles through knee high soupy tundra to fish the northernmost point of wild rainbow trout in North America.

Speyground, April 2007

Our need for fishing more remote streams and catching never before caught trout expanded our sights to Southwestern Alaska. My first trip to Lake Illiamna and the Newhalen River signaled the beginning of my obsession for 30 inch trophies. The Newhalen is a beautiful river with picturesque gorges and deep holes stacked with fish. Its power comes from being nearly the same width as the Kenai while holding twice the volume of water.

A friend and I arrived in October and stayed at Illiamna Lake Resort. The picturesque resort was closed for the season. The caretaker, a family friend, gave us free reign on the leftover food, truck and jet boat. We fished for a week under lightly falling snow and sub-freezing temperatures. The constant ice in our guides, the numbness of our hands and legs are a distant memory to the rainbows, dollies and lake trout we had all to ourselves. The trout were girthy beyond recognition from all of the salmon eggs and flesh in the river. The fish of the trip was a 31 inch dolly so gorged with eggs it weighed in at close to 20 pounds. Sadly, it is this very water that will bear the brunt of irreversible toxic pollution if Northern Dynasty Minerals gains approval to build the world’s largest open pit mine and the world’s largest earthen dams to hold the toxic waste rock.

Worth Preserving | Photo courtesy of R. Peterson

After being lucky enough to fish the Illiamna drainages, I jumped at the chance to meet up with RP who was now a guide on the river N and other famed southwest Alaska waters. With rainbows larger than anywhere in the world, the N is THE river. Big water, big flies, and big trout. A testing ground for hardcore fly fishers.

Our first trip to the N was in late October. With winds and sleet greeting me as I exited the airport, R.P. was outside leaned up against our clunker rental, a pre 90’s Ford Escort. He was rolling up a cig with a big grin on his face. “Yo Tuber, ready to hit it?”. We headed straight for the jet boat. That afternoon at our first stop on the river, we each hooked into 27 inchers. At the next hole, R.P. hooked his first plus 30, a 31 inch buck. Just 15 minutes later on the same hole, I landed my dream fish, a 30 inch hen. The next 2 days, we caught a few more rainbows each but none bigger than 27.

 

First 31" Buck.

First 31" Buck.

During the last run before my flight out, I hooked into a rainbow that I still daydream about to this day. The take nearly ripped my 8 weight out of my frozen hands. In just seconds, I was into my backing. I started maneuvering my way downstream through the chest-deep water. I knew if I could hold him at the slow corner hole 150 yards below, I may have a chance. R.P. shouted from 100 yards upriver, “hold him” as he made his way towards me. I remember everything about that 5 minute battle along with it’s abrupt end. The screetching drag, the afterburn of flyline vs skin, the chill of freezing water spilling over my waders as I hopped downriver. The rainbow felt like a mid 30 incher, a monster hog, pushing near 20 pounds. The one and only jump out of water shortly before breaking off my tippet only confirmed my guess. It was truly a thing of beauty.

Two hours later packed and ready to head off back to Anchorage. I paid RP my half of the car rental and gas for the boat wearing the same big grin that he had on his face when I arrived. I’ve been going back almost every October since.

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