Alaska Brief Newsletter – April 2016
It’s spring and all of the waterbodies in Alaska are clearing of ice. It’s fitting that last week, Senior Staff Attorney Brian Litmans participated in an environmental law symposium at Lewis & Clark Law School on the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency developed the WOTUS Rule to define which waters, from headwaters to tributaries to lakes to ephemeral streams to wetlands, are subject to federal regulation under the Clean Water Act.
The Rule has drawn fire from all sides about which waters would or would not be covered. As is usual, Industry claims the Rule goes too far, while conservationists are concerned that important waters will not be protected by permits for polluting discharges.
Brian presented about the implications in Alaska, where wetlands cover 43 percent of the state. Alaska’s waters are precious and Trustees works to ensure they are protected—from education to litigation.
Yukon-Charley Case Goes Back to the Ninth Circuit
The US Supreme Court decided to not decide on the hovercraft lawsuit brought by John Sturgeon against the National Park Service (NPS). Instead they sent the case back to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Court’s decision did not indicate which side should prevail in the case. The Ninth Circuit had ruled that NPS had authority to manage rivers within their lands. Mr. Sturgeon challenges that authority.
Mitigation on the Frontier: BLM Initiates a New Approach for NPR-A
Alaska is on the forefront of developing mitigation strategies that would be considered for environmental impacts before development projects move forward. The Bureau of Land Management is looking for a better way to mitigate against the impacts of oil and gas development in the region. The NPR-A is one of the first regions in the nation to undertake this new process.
Chuitna Water Reservation Challenged, Mine Permitting Begins
Trustees for Alaska won the first ever private water reservation in Alaska for the Chuitna Citizens Coalition. Water in part of Middle Creek, a tributary of the Chuitna River, was reserved for fish. This precedent-setting decision is at risk from an appeal by PacRim.
PacRim is moving forward with required permit applications that would allow them to destroy important salmon habitat.
Student Earns Credit and Gains Hands-On Experience
Kendall Hamilton worked at Trustees for school credit this winter. She learned a lot and had a great time exploring Alaska.
Thank you to everyone for participating in our data gathering from donors and supporters. The response to our survey was overwhelming, which means you all really care about Trustees and about Alaska. We appreciate your insights as we plan our future.