RDC NEWS DIGEST
NOAA proposes to list seals on ESA
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has proposed listing the ringed and bearded seals as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) because of the projected loss of ice from global climate change.
Ringed seals are the main prey of polar bears, which were listed as threatened under the ESA in 2008. Highly speculative NOAA climate change models were used to project diminishing Arctic ice pack and snow conditions.
The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned to list the seals in 2008 and later sued to force a decision.
The State of Alaska, which has sued to overturn the polar bear listing, opposes the listing of the two seals. The state objects to the listing of a species whose population has not declined. Both polar bears, ringed and bearded seals have healthy population levels and are not at risk of imminent extinction.
“It’s again this model of what could happen versus really using the ESA to protect species that are in some significant state of decline and are projected to continue to decline toward some risk of extinction within the next 20 to 30 years rather than 50 to 100 years into the future,” said Doug Vincent-Lang, Endangered Species Coordinator with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
RDC supports Pogo permit
In comments to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, RDC expressed its support for reissuance of a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit to the Pogo Gold Mine, as well as the certification of the permit by the State.
Pogo began operating in 2006 and ore is processed onsite. Gold is acquired through a gravity recovery and floatation concentrate process in which all mill process water is recycled. A portion of the tailings are added to cement to form a paste and placed underground as backfill. Remaining tailings are dewatered and placed in a drystack.
Water discharged at Pogo includes only mine drainage from the underground mine workings and surface runoff. The water first goes through a water treatment plant at the mill site, then is piped to a newly-installed, specialized treatment plant before it flows into the Goodpaster River. Thorough monitoring of the discharged water at several locations in the area has shown it to be within the limits set forth in the original NPDES permit.
RDC opposes Wilderness proposal in Gates
RDC is opposing a National Park Service proposal to designate an additional one million acres of Wilderness in Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve.
“RDC strongly opposes any new federal Wilderness designations in Gates of the Arctic, as such consideration is inconsistent with promises that were made in the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA),” said Marleanna Hall, RDC projects coordinator.
In 1980, approximately seven million acres, or 83 percent of the Gates of the Arctic were designated as Wilderness. Hall pointed out that with 58 million acres of Wilderness, Alaska accounts for 53 percent of America’s federal Wilderness areas. “Alaska doesn’t need more federal Wilderness,” Hall said. “What Alaska does need is economic opportunity and access to develop our resources, as implied in the promises of ANILCA.”
The one million acres the National Park Service is considering includes an area valuable to Alaska’s economy and landowners, including Native entities. Designation of this area as Wilderness could forever block access to one of the world’s largest and richest volcanogenic massive sulfide districts.
Governor backs Susitna Dam
Governor Sean Parnell announced his support for the Lower Watana site on the Susitna River as the primary hydroelectric opportunity for Alaska’s Railbelt. The governor’s support follows the Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) recommendation for the large hydroelectric project.
“In order to provide low-cost electricity for the Interior and the Railbelt and to meet the state’s goal of having half of Alaska’s electricity generated by renewable resources by 2025, we must invest in a large-scale hydro project,” Parnell said.
Earlier this year, a feasibility study of major hydroelectric projects concluded that the Susitna project would produce two to three times more energy and at a lower per unit cost than the others; that Susitna is less likely to result in adverse environmental effects; that the project has fewer licensing and permitting complexities; that it can start sooner and involves simpler construction; and that it has a lower long-term operational risk factor.
Parnell announced he will propose legislation that will allow AEA to pursue funding and ownership of the project.
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