In early October, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources must make a precedent-setting decision. The agency will decide whether to grant the request of Alaska citizens and fishermen to leave enough water for salmon to survive in the Middle Fork of the Chuitna River in Upper Cook Inlet. To deny the request would increase the threat PacRim LLC, a Delaware-based coal mining company, would be allowed to dewater the Middle Fork in order to mine for coal. Make no mistake, if the water reservation is not granted, and PacRim receives the green light to begin operations, one resource will be traded for another.

Such a decision would fall far short of our collective responsibility to balance the development of state natural resources with the protection of our lands and waters. As representatives of legislative districts that depend on Alaska fisheries, we are aware of the importance of DNR’s decision. We respectfully ask Gov. Bill Walker for careful leadership on the issue for the sake of both salmon and sustainable development.

The state of Alaska faces many tough choices these days—finding new sources of revenue, funding essential state services, and debating over how to best monetize our natural gas reserves. A decision to approve an application to leave water in a river so wild salmon stocks can thrive should not be one of those choices.

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