Petersburg man represents economic interests in D.C.
Petersburg resident Brian Lynch, along with other Alaskans representing commercial fishing, tourism and tribal organizations, traveled to Washington D.C. to urge Alaska’s congressional delegation to become more involved in mining development in British Columbia.
“Our request was to have the delegation draft a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry to get the ball rolling and make inquiries into Canada,” Lynch said.
Lynch and four other Alaska representatives brought to the delegates a letter signed by the Petersburg Borough Assembly and 39 other businesses, trades, tribal organizations and individuals.
Lynch is the Executive Director of the Petersburg Vessel Owners Association. He said at least five proposed British Columbia mines would be located in watersheds that drain into Southeast Alaska salmon bearing rivers including the Taku, Stikine and Unuk rivers.
“These rivers are the region’s top producers of wild salmon and eulachon,” Lynch said in a press release. “We cannot afford to sit quietly as these mines are being developed on an accelerated timeline. The risk of pollution in the form of acid mine drainage is very real, while the benefit of these mines to Alaska is basically zero. We are asking the Alaska delegation to see that the State Department protects our downstream interests and works with Canada to ensure this unique international salmon-producing region is not negatively impacted by industrial development.”
Lynch said they met with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Mark Begich and Rep. Don Young and said there was a shared frustration regarding the lack of existing mechanisms to deal with issues that affect boundary waters besides the International Joint Commission (IJC)—an international organization created after Canada and the United States signed the Boundary Waters Treaty in 1909 aimed at preventing and resolving disputes between the two countries.
“Unfortunately they deal with something after something happens,” Lynch said. “This is not going to be a quick fix. It would be nice to have more involvement in the permitting process. We just want better assurances that these mines are constructed in the best way possible.”
Lynch said he would like to see more involvement and cooperation between the two governments.
“There’s no real hook the U.S has for any legal intervention should we see something not being built properly and Canada doesn’t have a hook either,” Lynch said. “That mechanism isn’t available.”