Flying home over the western Sound from Anchorage last week on a crystal clear day, the mountain peaks looked strangely bare, even for this time of the year, the effects of 2 low snow winters, and a hot summer. I watched the fishing fleet working below, scattered like colored pins on a map along shorelines and bays, trailing bright lines across the waves. Large processors rafted with tenders, transferring the salmon harvest into holds. The Sound’s sustainable natural resource economy is pumping along.
And so is the natural resource extraction industry. Chugach Alaska Corporation (CAC) is actively pursuing a gravel mine in one of the last undeveloped areas in eastern Prince William Sound, Port Gravina, in Comfort/Secret Cove. The development of EVOS surface protected areas, a legal loophole stemming from the ’91 settlement, is precedent setting, it’s the first time a subsurface owner has exercised their right to access the subsurface estate. The EVOS Trustee Council has been attempting to correct this problem by working to secure these subsurface holdings. Unfortunately, they have not done enough to be able to stop this development. Nor does the Forest Service seem prepared to deal with the issue adequately.
Preparation work by CAC has already begun on the site in Port Gravina. Sonar from blasting, noise and light pollution from the construction camp, large vessels and degraded water runoff are the least of the issues will stem from this proposed action.
The Bering River Coal Fields with its estimated 35 million tons of recoverable coal sit under the eastern portion of the Copper River Watershed. Bering River coal patent and development rights for the Kushtaka Mountain and Cunningham Ridge regions of the coal field are owned by the Korean Alaska Development Corporation (KADCO). Chugach Alaska Corporation (CAC) retained subsurface coal rights to an anthracite coal deposit in the Carbon Mountain region, and all surface, timber and water rights over 73,000 acres within the Chugach National Forest. Recently CAC has put its subsurface coal rights on the international m arket.
The potential for these areas to be developed – think mountain top removal strip mining – would be disastrous for the Copper River and Prince William Sound watershed, and for the world as a whole with the return of coal burning emissions into the atmosphere.
The EVOS Re-Opener Clause Citizen Action & Advocacy Campaign is getting ready to be launched. PWSK is holding a Strategic Planning meeting in September with collaborating parties in anticipation of government action (or non) in regards the 2006 application for the Re-Opener Clause provided for in the ’91 Baker vs Exxon settlement. PWSK has asked the Court to allow Professor Rick Steiner to represent us in “Friend of the Court” testimony in the ongoing litigation.
On my afternoon beach walk, accompanied by my dog and the sound of jitney’s working in the bay, I pick up the scattered bits of plastic trash and busted line washed in at the tide line. I keep an eye out for sea stars with any signs of sea star wasting disease. PWSK member Dave Janka of the Auklet documented the disease off of Green Island recently. It seems that the warming waters from the North Pacific Blob may have more in store for PWS ecology before the year is out.