New State Bill Would Protect Kuskokwim River Watershed And Is Supported By Tribal Interests

The following press release is courtesy of the Mother Kuskokwim Tribal Coalition:

Indigenous organization supports new bill to protect Kuskokwim River and Native ways of life

JUNEAU, AK – Today the Mother Kuskokwim Tribal Coalition applauds the introduction of the “Balance for the Kuskokwim River Act,” HB 357 by Rep. CJ McCormick (D-Bethel), a bill that would codify the designation of the Kuskokwim as a Tier III waterbody under the Federal Clean Water Act. The bill would ensure that the water quality of the Kuskokwim River is protected and the customary and traditional subsistence lifestyle of the people of the region is prioritized and protected. The following statement from Anaan’arar Sophie Swope (Orutsararmiut Native Council Tribal Member), Director of the Mother Kuskokwim Tribal Coalition, can be quoted in-full or in-part

“With this critical legislation, our younger generations can grow up knowing the lands, waters, and wildlife that nourished our elders and past generations are protected from water pollution. Our region and our people are under constant threat and this legislation ensures that the highest level of Federal Clean Water Act protections are extended to the Kuskokwim.

“The Kuskowim runs for more than 700 miles and is the second largest river in Alaska. Thirty-eight communities are sustained by the river and its drainage. The Yup’ik, Cup’ik, Athabascan, and others rely on the river for the salmon that make up over half of our diets. Without proper protections the Kuskokwim is at risk from pollution and destruction. 

For years, Mother Kuskokwim has been joined by elders, residents, and concerned Alaskans in sounding the alarm about the Donlin Gold Mine. Donlin poses a significant threat to the river and has been pushed through without proper approvals. We are hopeful that we can work with the Army Corps to conduct a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement that looks at the potential for contamination of the Kuskokwim River, a water source that we can and should protect. 

We are grateful to the champions in the Alaska legislature for working to protect this vital and sacred source of water that our people rely upon.”