From: Transboundary Watershed Alliance
Published October 25, 2004 06:20 PM

Report Says Tulsequah Chief Road Will Harm Taku Wild Salmon

CONTACT: Chris Zimmer, Transboundary Watershed Alliance, cell 604/763-6345 or 907/586-4905

Report Says Tulsequah Chief Road Will Harm Taku Wild Salmon

Biologist documents faulty road design, inadequate field research and poor impact assessment

(Juneau) A new report by an independent fisheries biologist identifies serious threats to Taku River wild salmon from the proposed Tulsequah Chief mine access road. The report documents significant flaws in the project’s scientific analysis, concluding “that adequate baseline data have not been collected, that impact assessment and mitigation measures are inadequate, and that as designed this project is likely to lead to Harmful Alteration, Disruption or Destruction (HADD) of fish habitat and Fisheries Act violations impacting an important, shared commercial and subsistence fishery.”

“Here is specific scientific evidence that the Tulsequah Chief project threatens a $7 million fishery in Juneau’s back yard,” said Chris Zimmer of the Transboundary Watershed Alliance. “There were big problems at two out of three sites surveyed that Redfern either ignored or didn’t look for, and chances are that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Despite these flaws, Canada appears ready to sign off on the project. Why do Governor Murkowski and the Alaska DNR trust the Canadians to do the right thing when today’s report clearly documents major failings?”

The report, by professional fisheries biologist Adam Lewis of Ecofish Research Ltd., was released today by the Transboundary Watershed Alliance and examined the proposed road route and design and the impact assessment and mitigation work by Redfern Resources, the project proponent. The report’s damning conclusions come as the Canadian federal government is finishing its environmental review. Canadian government sources suggest that Canada is planning to approve the Tulsequah Chief project, possibly before the end of this year, and will argue that it will have no significant impacts.

“British Columbia made a political decision to approve this mine and they’re pressuring Canada to do the same. The science just doesn’t support approval and the Taku salmon fishery hangs in the balance,” said Zimmer. “In one field visit, this fisheries biologist documented more problems than BC and Canada have found in the past ten years. This new report is one more indication that both BC and the Canadian feds have ignored their responsibilities to address serious failings in Redfern’s plans.”

In addition to site specific threats to salmon, Lewis documents major flaws in Redfern’s assessment, including major gaps in field research, inadequate baseline studies, poor impact assessment and no assessment of potential accidents. Lewis found threats to salmon and salmon habitat at two of the three sites surveyed. At one site where Lewis found spawning salmon and “a fish sensitive zone,” no site visit was ever done by Redfern or Canadian regulatory agencies. Lewis explicitly states that “authorization of the road design is not warranted” and recommends a broad-based watershed planning process as the best way to address the failings in the mine’s review process to date.

“This report found threats to salmon at two of three stream crossings with important salmon habitat, so what about the other 265 culverts and bridges? With its support for fish farms and its caving in to BC political pressure on the Tulsequah Chief the Canadian feds have shown little care for Alaska’s wild salmon and salmon fishing businesses. Governor Murkowski needs to aggressively speak up for Alaska’s fishing families or his legacy will be one of failing Alaska fishermen and the Taku.”

Note to reporters and editors: Contact Chris Zimmer for copies of the report and to arrange interviews with Mr. Lewis.

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