Last week, Alaska senators Lisa Murkowski (R), Dan Sullivan (R) and Rep. Don Young (R) asked Secretary of State John Kerry to negotiate with Canadian leaders to make sure appropriate environmental safeguards are in place for mine development in Southeast Alaska.

The congressional delegation explained the importance of this issue to Alaskans and the need for assurances that the water quality in transboundary waters between Alaska and Canada will be maintained.

Alaska senators Lisa Murkowski (R), Dan Sullivan (R) and Rep. Don Young (R).“Like most Alaskans, we strongly support responsible mining, including mines in Southeast Alaska, but Alaskans need to have every confidence that mining activity in Canada is carried out just as safely as it is in our state,” read the letter. “Yet, today, that confidence does not exist…. Should there be an impact to the transboundary waters that flow from Canada to Alaska, our state’s fisheries, tourism, and Native peoples could all be hurt.”

The delegation proposed the State Department to work with Alaskans and the Obama Administration to urgently take all of the following actions:

— Encourage British Columbia officials to consider the cumulative impacts of mining and their potential impacts on transboundary waters during the review and approval process for mines.

— Determine whether an International Joint Commission reference is a suitable venue to determine whether Canadian mines are following “best practices” in treatment of wastewaters and acid-producing mine tailings – especially in light of the scientific reviews of the causes of the Mt. Polley tailing disposal dam failure.

— Establish a more formal consultation process with American state agencies, other federal agencies, tribes, and ANCSA corporations during Canadian mine permit reviews, similar to the American process of having participating entities during Environmental Impact Statement preparations.

— Support Environment Canada’s water quality study effort relating to the impacts of mining on transboundary waters.

— Support and work towards robust funding for water quality testing on the American side of the border to establish baseline water quality data, so that the U.S. can file for damages in the event of mining-related damage from Canadian mines.

The full text of the letter is available online.

Samuel Hill is the former associate editor for National Fisherman. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine where he got his start in journalism at the campus’ newspaper, the Free Press. He has also written for the Bangor Daily News, the Outline, Motherboard and other publications about technology and culture.

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