ANCHORAGE, AK – Foot-dragging by the Parnell Administration has forced Alaskan citizen groups to challenge the State’s refusal to protect the waters that support wild Alaskan salmon.
The groups, the Chuitna Citizens Coalition and Cook Inletkeeper, filed suit recently in state court to press the Parnell Administration to process long-standing water rights claims for fish before continuing to issuing water use permits to corporations.
“Wild, healthy salmon define who we are as Alaskans,” said Judy Heilman, with the Chuitna Citizens Coalition. “The Parnell Administration is breaking the law by giving Outside corporations permits without protecting our salmon first.”
Alaska law specifically empowers scientists, agency experts and citizens to apply to the State to “reserve” water in streams and lakes to ensure salmon passage, spawning and rearing habitat. Under Alaska law, any request for water use from a corporation must first consider and protect the water reserved to protect fish.
“The Parnell Administration is turning the law on its head,” said Bob Shavelson, with Cook Inletkeeper. “If we allow corporations to take water without keeping enough water in our streams for our salmon, we’ll be in the same boat as Oregon and Washington in no time.”
The Parnell Administration has actively ignored water reservations requests for salmon, yet continues to process corporate water use permits. State records show a large backlog of instream flow reservation requests the state has refused to address.
“Governor Parnell is not keeping his word,” said Heilman. “He’s ready to trade wild Alaskan salmon for coal to power China. To do it, he’s ignoring the law and thumbing his nose at everyday Alaskans.”
“If we don’t put fish first in Alaska, we’ll hurt the jobs and families our salmon support,” said Terry Jorgenson, a commercial set net fishermen with the Chuitna Citizens Coalition. The public interest law firm Trustees for Alaska is representing the Alaskan groups.
More information is available at: www.inletkeeper.org