Category Archives: Featured Content

UAF Rifle Team Places Second in NCAA’s

Photo courtesy of Alaska Fairbanks athletic department

Photo courtesy of Alaska Fairbanks athletic department

 

In this month’s issue of Alaska Sporting Journal we have a package on the University of Alaska Fairbanks rifle team, which has quietly been a dynasty with 10 national championships. The Nanooks were ranked second in the nation when they hosted the NCAA Championships last weekend in Fairbanks.

UAF finished second to No. 1 West Virginia:

Many members of the team are also hunters. (UAF )

Many members of the team are also hunters. (UAF )

 

Alaska won the smallbore championship last night, holding off West Virginia by an impressive twelve shots, but it was unable to overcome the top air rifle team in the nation, as the Mountaineers rallied to defeat the Nanooks by two overall shots, 4,702 to 4,700.

“Coming in we knew that we were probably the top smallbore team in the country,” said head coach Dan Jordan. “We shot really well yesterday, but we came up just short today. West Virginia shot a phenomenal air gun today. We can’t do anything more than what we did. Both teams shot really well this weekend.”

In third place overall was Texas Christian University, who matched Nebraska’s 4,667 points, but hit 13 more 10x-shots to clinch the tiebreaker. The Cornhuskers did place in the smallbore competition, as they were in third place after last night’s action. Jacksonville State was the Championships’ fifth-place team and also went home with a trophy, as it finished in third place in the air rifle portion. Kentucky’s tally of 4,657 was good for sixth-place, while the United States Air Force Academy and Murray State placed seventh and eighth, respectively.

Alaska’s Tim Sherry placed eighth overall after finals, to lead the Nanooks, following up on his fifth-place individual finals in smallbore, last night.

Maren Prediger of West Virginia was the top individual following finals, as she topped a full contingent of Mountaineer medalists. West Virginia’s Michael Bamsey placed second overall and Garrett Spurgeon was the third best shooter. Spurgeon was also named the NCAA Championship’s Top Overall Performer.

Sherry’s 596 was the highest shot total of any Nanook, qualifying him for finals. Mats Eriksson and Ryan Anderson were Alaska’s next best shooters, as they each scored 592 points. Lorelie Stanfield and Sagen Maddalena rounded out the Nanooks, with respective shot totals of 589 and 588.

Here’s our story on the team’s coach, Jordan, who was paralyzed in a climbing accident but does not let his physical limitations slow him down from coaching or enjoying the outdoors:

Photo by Dan Jordan

Photo by Dan Jordan

 

By Chris Cocoles
University of Alaska rifle team coach Dan Jordan says he really hadn’t been challenged much by the time he’d reached the summer after his sophomore year at the same school.
In May 1999, Jordan had just completed his sophomore year on the Nanooks rifle team when he and a close friend and teammate, Amber Darland, went rock climbing north of Fairbanks.
“I was climbing and my safety pieces broke out, so I fell about 60 feet,” says Jordan who was asked by rescuers, was he allergic to anything. In a Denver Post story from a few years back, he recalled deadpanning an answer that would reflect on his ability to handle such a life-altering tragedy: “Rocks.”
He was paralyzed throughout his lower body.

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JORDAN GREW UP in rural Franktown, Colo., not far from Colorado Springs. His family wasn’t into hunting or guns, but young Dan “was infatuated with hunting and shooting from the time I was a little kid.”
His parents put Jordan into the local 4-H club so he could learn gun safety from those who did know something about firearms
He would spend endless hours shooting targets attached to hay bales in nearby cow pastures. He’d hunt with a fellow football player and his father, who was their high school coach. Jordan referred to his coach as a “mountain man” who took the boys on an epic elk and deer hunt and slept in teepees; they wore buckskins and lived out a Grizzly Adams/Jeremiah Johnson experience.
“In the winter we shot in cow and chicken barns at the fairgrounds,” Jordan says. “When I went to the state fair and saw Olympic-style shooting, I was enthralled by it.”
Jordan went to Alaska for college and was an All-American in both smallbore and air rifle in 1998 and 1999. He didn’t have a care in the world – until May 23, 1999, the date of the accident.
“I’ve always looked at it as my life was very easy before that,” he says. “I was pretty athletic and school was always easy for me. I never had to work hard at anything. So I looked at it as I finally had a challenge in my life; it’s something I’m going to have to work at.”

Dan Joordan and his wife, Amber

Dan Joordan and his wife, Amber

THREE DAYS AFTER his fall, Jordan was flown closer to home in Colorado, but after surgery and spending almost two months rehabbing in a Denver hospital – “I got tired of being there,” he said – he told his parents he wanted to return to school in Fairbanks that August. Mom and Dad understandably wanted him to delay going back so soon and adjust to life in his wheelchair and skip a semester.
“My kind of mentality was, I would rather come up in August or September and learn how to negotiate my way around, rather than come back up in January where everything was snowy and cold,” Jordan says.
“I came back somewhere around Aug. 26, got all settled in and told my parents I was leaving to go moose hunting. So one of my teammates took me and we went moose hunting and slept in the back of his Suburban. So I guess you can say I got right back into it.”
That included training for and competing in the Paralympic Games. At the 2004 Athens Paralympics, Jordan left Greece with a silver medal in the smallbore three-position shoot.
The drive to regain the post-fall form and be accurate enough to compete in the Paralympics, let alone make it to a medal ceremony, became an obsession, much like every other obstacle he suddenly had to dodge.
“I never did it for anyone else,” he says. “I love shooting.”
And now he regularly hunts and fishes around Alaska from his wheelchair.
“One of the biggest things in life that makes me happy is just being outside,” he says. “Even when I was in the hospital days after surgery, my parents would get me in a wheelchair and just take me outside just to sit and see some sunshine.”
Steve Jordan would take his son fishing in the months after the fall, so you can imagine how emotional even a stoic Dan became on that first Alaskan moose hunt.
“Being able to come back and get back into hunting again, that’s what recharges my batteries.”

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GET TO KNOW Dan Jordan and you hope you can come away thinking similarly to his attitude. To hell with the challenges his condition might have prevented. To hell with the “why me” reaction so many of us might have screamed out if something of this magnitude was inflicted upon us.
“I never had a depression phase; I never went through any kind of anything,” Jordan says. “After surgery when I woke up, nobody had to me that I was paralyzed. You knew it. It was just, ‘OK, now what?’”
It started with the friend who watched his fall in horror. Amber Darland and Dan Jordan were already close friends, and it was Dan who had been futilely “kind of chasing her at the time” before the accident.
“Then when I got hurt, she kind of started chasing me and I didn’t want anything to do with her,” says Jordan, who was a year ahead of her in school and moved back to Colorado after graduation. They were separated again for a time being, but eventually their paths crossed back in Fairbanks for good.
“It took about 10 years of chasing each other,” he says.
Now they’re married, and Jordan has happily accepted that his accident wouldn’t define who he is.
“Things may take a little bit longer and I may have to get creative with how I do some things,” he says. “And there are some things I just flat out can’t do. But that’s part of it. So be it.”

 

Headed To California? Fish For Big Bucks At Lake Isabella Derby

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Sorry to slip in a California-ish story on the blog, but if you’re going to be in California at the end of the month, check out the  Lake Isabella Fishing Derby, which is put on by our friends at the Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce. The folks there provided us with this press release with some information on the trout derby at the Kern County Lake near Bakersfield. and scheduled for March 28-30.

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Despite the drought and a lower lake level, the Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce and ReelChase are happy to announce that there will be a fishing derby this coming year. The 2015 Isabella Lake Fishing Derby will be held on March 28, 29 and 30!
According to the Chamber’s Fishing Derby Committee, some adjustments to the profile of the derby have been made, but they are confident that everyone who enters will have a great time. One of the changes this year, are a number of guaranteed winnings. According to the committee, the Chamber is looking forward to having the opportunity to give away some very good prize money. As always, Lake Isabella will have some of the largest trout in the area for the Derby and whether yours is a moneymaker or not, it will still prove to be a good diner size trout for you to enjoy.
This year’s big money prize trout will be worth a guaranteed $18,500! There will be 10 Longest Trout awards starting with the highest at $5,000 and descending to a $500 10th Longest Fish! The prizes will be structured in the following order; (1st Longest Trout) $5,000, (2nd) $4,000, (3rd) $3,000, (4th) $2,000, (5th) $1,000, (6th) $900, (7th) $800, (8th) $700, (9th) $600, & (10th) $500. That $5,000 catch will be worth $10,000 if it is caught by an angler wearing n official 2015 Derby T-shirt!

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Measuring will be taking place during Derby hours at Derby Headquarters only, which will be at the Lake Isabella Moose Lodge located at 6732 Lake Isabella Blvd. Along with these prizes, there will be a possibility for anglers to win in the always popular, Bobber Bowl Sweepstakes. Several, huge one pound plus trout with an official 2015 Derby tag will be worth up to $100 each, generously sponsored by local merchants, organizations and individuals.
Also this year, any registered fisherman will be able to win a Vacation Voucher worth $6,000 if they have the winning ticket! Tickets for the Voucher are only $20 each or six for $100.
More prizes and drawings that will be available at Derby Headquarters during the three-day event will be announced as March approaches. This year the entry fees will be $30 per individual and $65 per family. The Derby will start at 7 a.m. on Saturday, Mar. 28 and continue until 4 p.m. on Monday March 30, and the winners will be announced shortly after that the close of the derby.
Thank you in advance to all of the anglers from across California and beyond who will be coming out to the Kern River Valley for the derby. We welcome you and your families, and warmly invite you to have a great family weekend. Updates on the Isabella Lake Fishing Derby news to follow in the coming months before March! We’d also like to thank all of our sponsors for their support! This derby would not be possible without your continued generosity.
For additional information or to join the rest of us in registering call (760) 379-5236, e-mail us at office@kernrivervalley.com or friend us on the Lake Isabella Fishing Derby Facebook page for the latest posts.
GOOD LUCK!!!!!!!!!

Seattle Wild Salmon Advocates To Host Rally

Photo by Brian Lull
Photo by Brian Lull

 

We’ve dived into the wild salmon versus farmed salmon debate among restaurants and grocery stores in previous Alaska Sporting Journals. It’s a critical issue in terms of long-term effects on the Pacific fishery and it’s very important and dear to the hearts of many Alaskans who have worked hard to preserve wild salmon and question the potential impact of salmon farms that have popped out throughout nearby British Columbia, Canada.

This weekend in Seattle, a rally will bring together pro-wild salmon supporters to send their message. Here are the details:

 A broad coalition of progressive groups, concerned Costco customers, and fishermen will demonstrate this Saturday at the Seattle Costco to challenge the grocery chain to publicly commit to not sell GMO salmon. Due to a campaign by Friends of the Earth and local, regional and national allies, more than 60 retailers, including Target, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Safeway and Kroger, representing more than 9,000 grocery stores across the country, have made commitments to not sell this genetically modified fish. As one of the largest retailers of salmon and seafood in the U.S., and headquartered in the Northwest region home to Pacific wild salmon, Costco’s stance on GMO salmon will factor heavily in national retail decisions.

Nearly two million people — including scientists, fishermen, business owners and consumers — have written to the FDA in opposition to the approval of genetically engineered salmon due to the risks GMO salmon pose to human health, environment and wild salmon. Despite this outcry, the FDA is still considering GMO salmon’s approval. If approved, this would be the first genetically engineered animal allowed by regulators to enter the U.S. food supply, and it will likely not be labeled.

What: A rally and petition delivery of more than 50,000 petition signatures demanding that Costco commit to not selling GMO Salmon.
Where: In front of the Seattle Costco (Sodo neighborhood), 4401 4th Ave S, Seattle, WA
When: 2-4 p.m., Saturday, March 7
Who: Representatives of Alaskan Native American Tribe, UFCW Local 21; fishermen; members of the Washington environmental community; and Seattle residents will speak at the rally.
Visuals will include people holding banners, and salmon art and boxes of petitions.
Background on GMO salmon and market rejection of the GMO salmon is available at www.gefreeseafood.org

For more information, contact Danielle Friedman, organizing director at the Community Alliance for Global Justice, and Dana Perls, food and technology campaigner for Friends of the Earth.

Danielle Friedman, (206) 910-7877danielle@seattleglobaljustice.org
Dana Perls, (925) 705-1074dperls@foe.org 

Alaska BOG: No Drones For Commercial Salmon Fishing

Photo by Nicolas Halftermeyer/Wikimedia

Photo by Nicolas Halftermeyer/Wikimedia

The controvesy over drones has already affected hunting in Alaska. Now you can include commercial salmon fishing.

Here’s the Alaska Dispatch:

The Alaska Board of Game, which sets wildlife regulations, a year ago approved regulations blocking hunters from using remote-control aircraft to locate big game, and the Board of Fisheries has now moved to prohibit commercial fishermen from using drones to spot schooling salmon.

The latest action came Sunday at the Fish Board meeting in Sitka. Board members shot down the use of drones for economic reasons.

 “I’m for keeping pilots employed and not using unmanned aircraft for fish spotting,” the station reported him saying.

Board chairman Tom Kluberton agreed, according to KCAW, saying he tends “to look very hard at existing patterns of areas and fisheries, and I do like — whenever possible — to promote economic stability. We’ve had aircraft in this region for a long time. There are folks who stake their livelihoods and contribute to local economies flying their aircraft. I feel it’s just an unnecessary move” to allow drones.

 

Lost Blind Dog Reunites With Owner

 

(ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO)

I’m a sucker for inspiring stories about dogs, and this is a remarkable one out of the Fairbanks area:

 

A blind dog who wandered away from her Ester, Alaska, home during a cold snap has been reunited with her owner.

The 11-year-old Labrador retriever named Madera ventured away from home on Feb. 6, when the temperature dipped to 40 degrees below zero.

Her owner, Ed Davis, said he didn’t expect to find her alive. “My best hope was to walk those trails and look for a track that might be hers,” he said. “My best hope was to find a frozen dog.”

A man riding a bike accompanied by a bell-wearing dog located Madera in the woods last week, about a half-mile from the Davis’ home, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. Madera let out a whine when she heard the dog’s bell.

 

No Early Kenai King Fishing (Again)

Photo by Earl Foytack

Photo by Earl Foytack

The embattled Kenai River’s king salmon fishery has endured some difficult times in recent years. Now for a second straight year, parts of the Kenai will be shut down for early-run Chinook fishing.

Here’s the Peninsula Clarion with more:

The river will be closed to king fishing downstream of Slikok Creek through June 30 to protect early run king salmon.

Managers have also closed the river to king fishing upstream of Slikok Creek through July 31 to protect spawning early run kings, said Fish and Game Sport Fish Division Area Management Biologist Robert Begich.

While the king salmon management actions are largely similar to the 2014 preseason actions, anglers will have an opportunity to harvest Kasilof River king salmon during the early run.

Anglers will be allowed to keep a naturally produced or hatchery fish on Saturdays during May and June, Begich said, but the fishery will be restricted to a single-hook and no bait.

“Based on what we’ve seen at the weir, at the assessment site on Crooked Creek the last few years … they’re not producing well enough to do three days of harvest,” he said. “We feel that we can allow some harvest down there and still meet the needs for achieving escapement and then also a brood stock program for stocking.”

 

 

Iditarod Changes Course; Will Start From Fairbanks

Dallas Seavey, the defending champion in the Iditarod, will start from Fairbanks and not the usual Anchorage starting line this year. (DALLAS SEAVEY)

Dallas Seavey, the defending champion in the Iditarod, will start from Fairbanks and not the usual Anchorage starting line this year. (DALLAS SEAVEY)

We’re hitching up our huskies and taking a dog sled journey in the upcoming March issue of Alaska Sporting Journal. Following up on our December profile of the dog mushing Berington twins, we’ll have an Iditarod preview this month with among other stories an interview with defending champ Dallas Seavey, whose second win in the “Last Great Race on Earth” followed his 2012 championship when he became the event’s youngest winner.

If he’s to win his third title in four years, Seavey will do so from a different route. In most races, the Iditarod’s dog teams shove off from Nome – the route is alternated a bit in odd and even years, but almost always from Nome. But circumstances – read, low snowfall totals – have changed this year, and Fairbanks will mark the official start of the race on March 9 after the ceremonial start in Anchorage.

From the Fairbanks Daily Miner:

Members of the trail committee’s board of directors met Tuesday and voted unanimously to change the course due to low snowfall in some of the most treacherous sections of the trail’s roughly 1,000 miles.

Similar conditions forced the race’s restart to move from Willow to Fairbanks in 2003, bypassing the Alaska Range but keeping it roughly the same distance. The move to Fairbanks was considered in snow-starved 2014, too, and after the board’s decision kept mushers on the traditional southern route, the bruised and beaten up dog drivers criticized officials for not avoiding what some of them described as a catastrophe.

This year’s Iditarod will be 19 miles shorter — 968 miles versus 987 — than the traditional northern route that teams would have taken in an odd year and will pass through two new checkpoints in the Interior: Huslia and Koyukuk. In 2003, mushers had to backtrack on the Yukon River to make more miles, so the jaunt north to the villages means a snaky yet flowing route that still goes about 1,000 miles total to the finish in Nome.

First, though, Iditarod’s ceremonial start is scheduled for March 7 in Anchorage in an 11-mile untimed trip through the city’s party atmosphere, on streets and trails. Then it will restart in Fairbanks on March 9, a Monday instead of the usual Sunday restart in Willow, to allow kennels enough time to drive dog trucks north 360 miles.

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This Alaska Dispatch report stressed how communities must adapt to the change of the course:

After word came Tuesday night that organizers would re-route more than 600 miles of trail because portions of the original trail were deemed impassable, communities and commercial interests along both the old and new trails were regrouping.

Steve Perrins, owner of the Perrin’s Rainy Pass Lodge on Puntilla Lake, said he suspects he’ll lose $25,000 worth of business this year.

“That’s just quick math,” he said. “That hurts this time of year, but what can you do?

 “We take it in stride and go on to the next step.”

 Takotna checkpoint manager Nell Huffman said Wednesday the tiny community of 50 had been preparing for the race, with some supplies purchased and more than $4,000 raised to help fund the checkpoint. She said Wednesday residents have already received boxes of donated supplies for the famous Takotna pies from schools in South Carolina.

 The villagers will hold on to those supplies until next year’s race, but Huffman said some money and food will go toward school activities. Pies may show up at an array of community events in the next year.

 “We half expected (the restart decision),” Huffman said.  “We hoped it came here and understand why it’s not. This is the highlight of the year for Takotna.”

 McGrath Mayor Dustin Parker said while the community understands the safety concerns behind the move, it’s still hard to swallow for the hub community of about 400. Many residents look forward to the seasonal jobs the race brings, from picking up extra shifts on the airport baggage ramp to helping bag groceries at the Alaska Commercial Co. store.

 “Those are all the jobs put on hiatus,” he said.

 

 

Short Film On SE Alaska Mining Risks To Premiere

 
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With mining becoming a booming business all around British Coumbia, Canada, it’s clear Alaskans just across the border are fighting back. Hence, Trout Unlimited’s Alaska program and the environmental group Salmon Beyond Borders collaborated on a film short, Xboundary, which stresses the concerns about the mining that, like the Pebble Mine to the northwest in salmon-rich Bristol Bay, could pose potential harm to the ecosystem in Southeast Alaska.
I was able to see a sneak preview of the film, which will be available to view online this Thursday. At just six minutes and change long, I won’t provide too much information and spoil the message. But very compelling arguments are made.
Xboundary begins with a black screen and background noise of raging water with this passage from the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty between the U.S. and Canada:
“WATERS FLOWING ACROSS THE BOUNDARY SHALL NOT BE POLLUTED ON EITHER SIDE TO THE INJURY OF HEALTH OR PROPERTY ON THE OTHER.”
The opponents of the mines interviewed talk of the three major river systems that share Canadian and U.S. soil – the Taku, Stikine and Unuk, and the mining operations that are within a close proximity of the rivers and their tributaries that wild salmon from the Pacific spawn in.
It’s a really well-produced film and worth your time to see when it’s made available for viewing. Here’s a press release, with information about the film’s online premiere later this week:
Trout Unlimited, Alaska Program, in collaboration with Salmon Beyond Borders, cordially invite you to an exclusive online screening of the new video, Xboundary. 
This film short, by acclaimed Alaska filmmaker Ryan Peterson, showcases the beauty and abundance of Southeast Alaska’s temperate rainforest, home to some of the world’s healthiest runs of wild salmon. The video also tackles some tough issues this region faces from neighboring Canada. Through the voices of fishermen, Alaska Natives, First Nations, tourism guides, and others, Xboundary explores the huge threats to the Alaska/B.C. transboundary region from large-scale developments in British Columbia. The video will leave you wanting to join the fight to protect this wild place, its salmon, Native cultures and unique way of life. 
 
This Thursday Feb. 12, the video will be live at salmonbeyondborders.org

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B.C. Mining Accident’s Potential Impact

The Skitkine River is one of the areas that could be affected by the Mount Polley Mine. (Sam Beebe/Wikimedia

The Skitkine River is one of the areas that could be affected by the Mount Polley Mine. (Sam Beebe/Wikimedia

 

It’s arguably not as big a story as the Bristol Bay region’s opposition to the Pebble Mine, but in Southeast Alaska, another mining project just across the border into British Columbia, Canada, the Mount Polley Mine.

An independent review of the potential environmental impact the mine could have on the ecosystem (you can the full report here).

The following is a detailed press release explaining what went into the study and its results:

MOUNT POLLEY MINE REPORT HIGHLIGHTS THREATS TO ALASKA SALMON, FISHING JOBS AND COMMUNITIES FROM B.C. MINES
 
Rather than calming Alaskans’ worries, new report is a rallying cry for U.S. State Department action to demand better salmon safeguards from B.C.
 
A diverse group of Alaskans said a report released today on the Mount Polley mine disaster in British Columbia (B.C.) provides new evidence that mines planned and under construction in the B.C. headwaters of highly productive Southeast Alaska salmon rivers are a threat to multi-billion dollar fisheries and a way of life for thousands of Alaskans. They call for the U.S. State Department to engage in meaningful bilateral discussions with Canada that ensure better safeguards for salmon  before such mines are allowed to move forward.
 
“Today’s report underscores that, when it comes to the safety of large-scale mines, B.C.’s track record speaks for itself. The Mount Polley disaster is a stark example of B.C.’s stewardship of a project that the government and the developer claimed was safe. We can’t let a similar accident taint the rivers of the transboundary region along the border between northwest B.C. and Southeast Alaska,” said Mark Jensen, mayor of Petersburg Borough, one of Southeast Alaska’s largest fishing communities. 
 
The independent review panel appointed by the B.C. government concluded the dam failed due to a design flaw which was not caught in the permitting process. It stemmed from a portion of the dam’s foundation being built on glacial soil that proved to be unstable as the tailings pond grew heavier. One of the engineers on the panel described Mount Polley as a “loaded gun” waiting to go off. The panel recommended that B.C. adopt better practices and use best available technology with safety a priority over economics. Alaskans are concerned that such fundamental changes in B.C. mining practices won’t be adopted due to time and expense and that there is no guarantee that such changes will actually reduce the long-term risks of transboundary mines.   
 
The Mount Polley tailings dam was approved by Canadian regulators to last in perpetuity, yet it failed in less than 20 years. The August 4, 2014, disaster sent an estimated 6.6 billion gallons of toxic mine waste and wastewater into the Fraser River watershed. The Fraser is one of Canada’s most important salmon-producing rivers. The environmental impacts of the spill will take years to fully comprehend, experts have said.
 
Mount Polley mine owner, Imperial Metals, is constructing a much larger mine, Red Chris, in the northwest B.C. headwaters of the Stikine River, one of Southeast Alaska’s most prolific salmon producers. A recent independent review of the Red Chris tailings storage facility found serious design flaws, raising concerns that a similar Mount Polley-style disaster would contaminate Alaska waters. Despite this, Imperial Metals still plans to open Red Chris mine in early 2015.
 
“The transboundary region supports fisheries vital to Southeast Alaska. A similar accident at a transboundary mine like Red Chris could release large quantities of tailings that are more toxic than the Mount Polley spill. The Mount Polley disaster was a clear sign that B.C. cannot assure us transboundary waters and fish won’t be polluted by the province’s aggressive mining agenda. The Sitka Assembly passed a resolution in October 2014 urging stronger oversight to ensure that Alaska resources are not harmed by upstream development in B.C. A review by the International Joint Commission would be a step in the right direction,” said Mim McConnell, mayor of the City and Borough of Sitka.
 
The International Joint Commission is a bilateral commission established by the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty, charged with resolving transboundary water disputes between the U.S. and Canada.
 
“Under the Boundary Waters Treaty, the U.S. and Canada are both committed to not polluting waters on their own side of the border to the injury of health or property on the other side of the border. Canada is not taking their treaty obligation seriously. We ask the State Department to work with Canada to ensure the treaty is respected and our interests are protected,” said Heather Hardcastle, a gillnetter and co-owner of Taku River Reds based in Juneau.
 
Even before the Mount Polley disaster, Alaskans had been pushing for the U.S. to have an equal seat at the table with Canada in discussions about how and if watersheds shared by both countries are developed. This equal footing currently doesn’t exist. The vast transboundary region is not only home to multi-billion dollar seafood and tourism industries, but to many tribal citizens, as well.
 
Multiple large-scale, open-pit mines like Red Chris are currently in various stages of development in the watersheds of three productive transboundary salmon rivers, the Taku, Stikine and Unuk, which flow from B.C. into Alaska. These projects raise red flags for many, including tribes, commercial and sport fishermen, tourism operators, municipalities and political leaders who have spoken out in numerous resolutions and letters.
 
“Today’s report raises more concerns than it answers. We need to halt these mines from moving ahead until our concerns are addressed. We have the right to be consulted on actions that could harm our culture and livelihoods, even if those actions are happening in Canada. This is why we need the State of Alaska and the State Department to do all they can to defend our way of life in the face of these threats,” said Rob Sanderson Jr., co-chair of the United Tribal Transboundary Mining Work Group, which includes 13 federally recognized tribes.
 
In late December 2014, despite thousands of objections from Alaskans and Canadians, including Alaska’s congressional delegation and legislators, the Canadian federal government approved KSM, a massive mine project just 19 miles upstream of the Alaska border. Critics compare the size of KSM to Pebble, a hugely controversial mine proposal in Bristol Bay. If built, KSM could leach acid mine drainage, heavy metals and other toxins into the transboundary Unuk River that drains into Misty Fjords National Monument near Ketchikan, Alaska.
 
Clay Bezenek, a Ketchikan-based gillnetter, is also frustrated with B.C.’s fast-tracked mining plans for projects like KSM.
 
“The Unuk River has been kept wild by the people of Southeast Alaska. The importance of the health of the Unuk to our commercial seine, gillnet and troll salmon fisheries can’t be overstated. To not have all concerned parties at the table when discussing projects of this magnitude is a mistake. I’m calling on Alaska Governor Bill Walker and on Secretary of State John Kerry to help get us to the table now,” said Bezenek.
Today’s report focuses on the technical and engineering reasons for the Mount Polley dam failure and does not address shortcomings in Canada’s mining regulations that may have contributed to the dam failure. Although the report recommended changes to mining practices, there is no guarantee any of these measures will be adopted at proposed transboundary mines or if such measures can ensure tailings dams will not fail over the very long term. 
 
“The tailings dams at these mines are environmental time bombs. It’s not a question of if they are going to fail, it’s just a question of when. We just shouldn’t be putting large tailings dams near vital water sources and fish habitat,” said Marsh Skeele, a troller and vice president of Sitka Salmon Shares, a seafood company based in Sitka.
 
More information, images and a map are available

at www.salmonbeyondborders.org

Coast Guard Statistics On Boating Safety

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Coast Guard Cutter Sherman.

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Coast Guard Cutter Sherman.

Summer will be here any minute now (well, maybe a little longer than that). But when the ice and snow go away in Alaska, boats will be out in full force in both fresh- and saltwater. Alaska’s United States Coast Guard 17th District released the following regarding boating safety:

JUNEAU, Alaska — The Coast Guard recognizes the successes of Alaska’s boating safety program with an 80 percent drop in recreational boating fatalities since HB108, Use, Regulation and Operation of Boats, was introduced in 1998.

Boating safety has come a long way since 1998 when there were 38 fatalities; in 2014 Alaska reported seven fatalities.  Alaska’s observed life jacket wear rates in the 13- to 17-year-olds’ category are nearly double the national rate. Alaska’s rate for boaters 18 and over is nearly three times the national wear rate.

However, the fatality demographic for non-commercial boaters in Alaska remains consistent:

  • Alcohol is reported to be a contributing factor in 25 percent of boating fatalities.
  • 90 percent of boating fatalities are adult males.
  • 90 percent of boating fatalities occur in boats under 26-feet.
  • 83 percent occur due to capsizing or falling overboard.
  • 75 percent occur while operating power boats.
  • 50 percent of boating fatalities occur in salt water.
  • 50 percent of boating fatalities occur in fresh water.

“The U.S. Coast Guard cautions mariners to ‘Boat Sober and Boat Safer,’” said Mike Folkerts, boating safety specialist, Coast Guard 17thDistrict.  “Take a boating safety class, file a float plan, keep a means of communication on your person and always wear your life jacket when on deck or in an open boat.”