Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The Chilkat Indian Village of Klukwan has appealed to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation requesting the agency set aside the wastewater management permit for the Palmer Project mine in Southeast Alaska’s Chilkat River watershed.
The appeal to ADEC follows a three-year effort to bring transparency and proper environmental review to the permitting process for an aggressive tunnel system under a hanging glacier on an active fault line in the headwaters of one of Southeast Alaska’s most important salmon watersheds.
In September, ADEC vacated the approval for a wastewater discharge system in response to issues raised by CIV regarding public process and violations of the Clean Water Act.
Now, the same agency is choosing to move forward with the permit.
CIV has engaged in government-to-government consultation with ADEC on this permit since 2019, after successfully challenging the original Waste Management Permit that ADEC issued that year.
In October, ADEC delivered its long-overdue decision on the issues raised in 2019 and since, reissuing the permit with revisions that fail to address CIV’s concerns.
On November 4, DEC notified CIV that it had conditionally approved the hearing request, but that the final decision was up to the Officer of Administrative Hearings.
The regulations allow twenty days from publication of the notice for the Water Division staff and the permittee to submit responses on whether the Commissioner should grant or deny the request for an adjudicatory hearing.
“We have lived here since time immemorial. Protecting the Chilkat River Watershed is our responsibility and written into our Tribal Constitution. It is our way of life and our food sovereignty. We would like all governments to work together to protect Jilḵáat Aani Ḵa Héeni (Chilkat River watershed) for safety and health of all people. This is not an unreasonable request,” said Vice President Jones P. Hotch, Jr. The appeal was filed by Earthjustice, which is representing CIV, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, the Takshanuk Watershed Council, Lynn Canal Conservation, Audubon, and Rivers Without Borders.