• SEITC.org

Chilkat Indian Village appeals state of Alaska decision to permit a mine project in pristine salmon

Tribe raises concerns of food sovereignty and safety to require proper agency review


An Indian Reorganization Act Village Under Act of Congress June 18th 1934 32 Chilkat Avenue Klukwan, Alaska HC60 Box 2207 Haines, Alaska 99827 Phone: (907) 767-5505 Fax: (907) 767-5518 Email: klukwan@chilkat-nsn.gov




KLUKWAN, Alaska (Tlákw Aan) — The Chilkat Indian Village of Klukwan (CIV) has appealed to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) requesting the agency set aside the waste water management permit for the Palmer Project mine in Southeast Alaska’s Chilkat River watershed. The appeal to ADEC follows a threeyear effort to bring transparency and proper environmental review to the permitting process for an aggressive tunnel system under a hanging glacier on an active fault line in the headwaters of one of Southeast Alaska’s most important salmon watersheds. In September, ADEC vacated the approval for a wastewater discharge system in response to issues raised by CIV regarding public process and violations of the Clean Water Act. Now, the same agency is choosing to move forward with the permit.


CIV has engaged in government-to-government consultation with ADEC on this permit since 2019, after successfully challenging the original Waste Management Permit (WMP) that ADEC issued that year. In October, ADEC delivered its long-overdue decision on the issues raised in 2019 and since, reissuing the permit with revisions that fail to address CIV’s concerns. On November 4, 2022, DEC notified CIV that it had conditionally approved the hearing request, but that the final decision was up to the Officer of Administrative Hearings. The regulations allow twenty days from publication of the notice for the Water Division staff and the permittee to submit responses on whether the Commissioner should grant or deny the request for an adjudicatory hearing.


“We have lived here since time immemorial. Protecting the Chilkat River Watershed is our responsibility and written into our Tribal Constitution. It is our way of life and our food sovereignty. We would like all governments to work together to protect Jilḵáat Aani Ḵa Héeni (Chilkat River watershed) for safety and health of all people. This is not an unreasonable request,” said Vice President Jones P. Hotch, Jr.


The appeal was filed by Earthjustice, which is representing CIV, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, the Takshanuk Watershed Council, Lynn Canal Conservation, Audubon, and Rivers Without Borders.


Background


The traditional territory of Jilkaat Kwaan includes 2.6 million acres encompassing Jilḵáat Aani Ḵa Héeni (Chilkat River watershed). The entire watershed includes the Chilkat, Tsirku and Klehini Rivers, along with several salmon-bearing tributaries, which provide spawning grounds for all five species of Pacific salmon, as well as anadromous eulachon and trout.


Haa Atx̱aayí Haa Ḵusteeyíx̱ Sitee (Our food is our life). Jilḵáat Aani Ḵa Héeni has provided food sovereignty and health and well-being to Jilkaat Kwaan since time immemorial. CIV continues to request meaningful government - to - government consultation on all activities within their traditional territories, and also requests federal government engagement on this mining permit process as part of the Biden Administration’s commitment to strengthening Nation to Nation relationships across the United States and Indigenous Peoples lands and waters.

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