Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

State will answer questions on "Tier 3"

 


In an effort to put rumors to rest and increase understanding, a representative from the Department of Environmental Conservation will answer questions about Tier 3 waters and related legislation beginning 6 p.m. Monday at the Chilkat Center.

Increasing interest and controversy surrounding the Chilkat Indian Village’s nomination of the Chilkat River as a Tier 3 water, also known as an Outstanding National Resource Water, prompted Michelle Hale to schedule the presentation.

“I know there are a lot of questions about the request for an Outstanding National Resource Water designation for the Chilkat River, and I want to do my best to answer questions and make sure everyone gets the same information from the same person,” Hale said.

The Upper Lynn Canal Fish and Game Advisory Committee met Friday, Feb. 12, to discuss a resolution supporting the Chilkat River’s nomination as a Tier 3 river. However, at the meeting, chair Tim McDonough removed the resolution from the agenda “due to a great deal of continued interest” in the topic.

Instead, McDonough wanted to compile a list of questions to submit to DEC so the group could receive accurate information to make future decisions.

Constantine Metal Resources has reached out to committee members in recent weeks, urging them to postpone supporting the resolution until they received more education and information about the impacts of a Tier 3 designation.

“I don’t believe that the information to the public is complete and I don’t think it’s accurate,” McDonough said. “I think some people on the green side have ideas that might not be accurate, and I think there’s some on the other side that don’t (have accurate information).”

Though McDonough repeatedly stated he didn’t want the meeting to become a forum for debating whether or not the Chilkat River should be nominated for Tier 3 status, several residents testified on the matter.

“I’ve lived here all my life,” commercial fisherman Charlie DeWitt said. “I’ve fished here. I’m an Alaska Native. I subsistence fish. And I don’t want any changes, because it’s going to be the worst for all of us. You guys that love your greenie and don’t want any mines and everything else are free to have it after I die. But I’m not planning on dying very soon.”

Tier 3 designation protects waters of exceptional recreational, environmental or ecological significance and prohibits any degradation of the waterway except for projects of temporary or limited impact.

Jack Smith Sr. said he was “frustrated” by the push for Tier 3 status, and Donnie Turner called it “scary.”

The group came up with a list of questions to forward on to DEC, including how logging operations, road maintenance (plowing, sanding, salting), and fish camps would be affected by the designation. Several people expressed concern about being able to use a two-stroke engine in the river.

Questions about the designation’s boundaries, who would be responsible for enforcing its restrictions, and what level of discharge is currently allowed in the river were also raised. Resident Eric Holle asked DEC to identify what kinds of operations or activities Tier 3 designation has shut down in other states.

Gershon Cohen, who penned the Chilkat Indian Village resolution nominating the Chilkat River for Tier 3 status, agreed with the plan to get more information.

“There is a lot of misinformation out there. I think we all need to be reading from the same piece of paper, and then we can have different opinions about whether or not we think it’s good or bad,” Cohen said.

Mayor Jan Hill and borough lobbyist Bill Thomas are meeting with DEC representatives this week to discuss the Tier 3 designation and legislation.

Hill said via email she will be talking with Hale about Monday’s town hall meeting. When asked if she was meeting with legislators or lobbying for or against the designation one way or another, Hill said, “Since we have not talked about this at the assembly level, I am not having any discussions with anyone else about this topic.”

Interim manager Brad Ryan confirmed with Thomas this week that Thomas is not lobbying for the borough on this issue.

There are currently two bills – Senate Bill 163 and House Bill 268 – in the Alaska Legislature that if passed would establish a method of designating Tier 3 waters in Alaska. They would allow nominations to be made to DEC, which would pass those nominations on to the legislature for final approval.

 
 

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