Alaskan News

Salmon Proponents: Dire Washington's report warns Alaska


Salmon in Washington state are on various paths of recovery and extinction, according to a recent report.

Although the exact circumstances are different in Alaska, where salmon runs remain relatively robust despite falling numbers in some parts of the state, salmon attorneys on the Last Frontier say there are clear lessons that can be drawn to prevent the future of the state State of Washington State is similar in detail in the report on the state of salmon in watersheds in 2020.

"We're absolutely repeating what they did wrong," said Lindsey Bloom, campaign strategist for SalmonState, in a Zoom interview. "We're just a younger state in terms of development and so on."

In particular, Bloom cited the potential development in the Tongass, proposed projects such as the Pebble Mine, proposed changes to water regulation and the lack of salmon-proof requirements for hydropower projects as some of the problem areas.

Erik Neatherlin, executive coordinator of the governor's Salmon Recovery Office in Washington, said Alaska certainly has unique characteristics, but some of the concerns raised in the State of Salmon report are true.

In Washington, a report on the salmon state is prepared every two years as required by state law. The governor's Salmon Recovery Office, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are among the agencies credited with producing the information contained in the report.

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Neatherlin identified managing the effects of climate change and protecting the quality of freshwater and coastal habitats as important things for salmon, whether the fish are in Washington or Alaska.

"These are all factors that I think will be learned from," Neatherlin said in a telephone interview. “Especially when you have a place like Alaska where you have lots of living space, lots of fresh water and lots of coastline. These are areas to watch out for and protect from salmon. "

Alaska's Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang, in a statement from a department spokesman, acknowledged some similarities that Alaska and Washington share.

However, he said there are some important differences as well, including relatively pristine freshwater habitats in Alaska.

"We share many of the same concerns but also differ in their relative importance," Vincent-Lang said in a statement. “For example, compared to WA, where freshwater habitats are (are) a major problem, Alaska's freshwater habitats are relatively pristine and unchanged. And we have a robust Title 16 program to ensure the conservation of habitats going forward. We are also involved in the Pacific Salmon Treaty as well as other international groups that regulate salmon management in the North Pacific to ensure salmon will be available for future generations. "

Pursuant to Title 16, any person or agency who “wants to build a hydraulic project or use the natural river or bed of a particular river, lake or stream must divert, obstruct, pollute or alter or use wheels, chains or excavation equipment or logging equipment in bed of a particular river, lake or stream ”to inform the commissioner of their plans prior to construction or use.

According to the law, “the commissioner must approve the proposed construction, work or use in writing, unless the commissioner finds the plans and specifications inadequate for the proper protection of fish and game.” The potential builder or user is then informed of the decision and has 90 days to initiate a hearing.

Bloom said she would like to see a policy with more explicit guidelines and safeguards.

"At this point, it's more that Alaskan bullets dodged than there are solid rules in place," Bloom said in an email. “ADF&G has proven itself to be world class in managing runs, but as a state we have been more lucky than lucky when it comes to habitat management. The Pebble Mine, Susitna Dam, which removes roadless areas for the Tongass, are near misses and / or impending threats that will put Alaska on the exact same road as Washington. What we do on these and other projects that threaten salmon habitats in the future will determine whether Alaska's salmon history remains any different from Washington and almost everywhere else. "

• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.



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