Mining Operations in Norton Sound Subject to New Rules
New protection measures for crab and salmon will restrict timing, depth, and locations of mining operations in Norton Sound, Alaska.
The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) recently released for public comment a General Permit for Floating Mining Operations in Alaska State Navigable Waters, including marine waters. The permit includes new measures to protect red king crab and salmon which migrate through Norton Sound and into rivers to spawn. NOAA Fisheries reviews public notices and offers expertise to the USACE for the conservation of living marine resources.
Floating mining operations use a dredge in nearshore waters to ‘vacuum’ up gravel and sand substrates which are then sifted to retain gold. The new protections restrict mining operations during certain spring and summer months when juvenile red king crab settle to the seafloor. Mining operations will also be restricted in waters deeper than 30 feet and within one nautical mile of stream mouths to avoid areas where salmon concentrate.
An Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) consultation with NOAA Fisheries is required whenever a federal agency authorizes, funds, or undertakes activities in an area that will affect EFH. Together, the agency and NOAA determine how best to conduct the coastal activity while supporting fish habitat and minimizing or avoiding environmental damage. The science conducted through this consultation helped USACE make management decisions; balancing mining and fishery interests in the Norton Sound.
In recent years, researchers and scientists from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks and the Alaska Fisheries Science Center used regular baseline sampling, analysis, monitoring, and new side-scan sonars technologies to inform studies on the benthic environment and red king crab in Norton Sound. Results showed that habitats deeper than 30 feet of water take more time to recover, while shallower habitats are routinely disturbed by natural events and recover quickly. Surveys also showed that crab larvae settle in nearshore substrates. These findings were used to better inform managers with the most recent science for the EFH consultation process.
NOAA Fisheries has provided USACE with EFH conservation recommendations relating to suction dredging operations in Norton Sound since 1999.
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The Marx Bros. Café
Jack Amon and Richard “Van” Hale opened the doors of the Marx Bros. Café on October 18, 1979; however, the two had already been partners in cuisine for some time, having created the Wednesday Night Gourmet Wine Tasting Society and Volleyball Team Which Now Meets on Sunday, a weekly evening of food and wine. It was actually the end of the weekly event that spurred the name of the restaurant: hours after its final service, Amon and Hale were hauling equipment and furnishings out of their old location and to their now-iconic building on Third Street, all while managing arguments about equipment ownership, a visit from the police, and quite a bit of wine. “If you’ve ever seen the movie ‘A Night at the Opera” starring the Marx Brothers, that’s what it was like,” Hale explains.