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By Dan Rudy 

F&G committee issues trooper letter and tines proposal

 


Convening for its last regular meeting of the year, the dozen members of Wrangell’s Fish and Game Advisory Committee recapped recent regulatory changes and looked ahead to future challenges.

Advisory committees are locally-organized groups of resource users and other stakeholders that meet to discuss fishing and wildlife issues, providing recommendations to the Alaska boards of Fish and Game.

On Wrangell’s horizon: moose brow tines, Canadian mining and getting another Alaska Wildlife Trooper assigned to the area.

Scott McAuliffe had represented Wrangell at the Board of Game meeting last month in Juneau, where their proposal to redefine points for forked moose antlers was opposed by the Department of Fish and Game and rejected by regulators.

Looking for direction on how to proceed with the matter, McAuliffe had been advised to submit a proposal for the next statewide BoG meeting to be held.

Discussing a possible proposal, committee members found themselves unsure how to best phrase the change they wanted. They had previously submitted similar proposals, without success. McAuliffe said these were over wording.

“That’s the other part of it, is to make a proposal that’s bulletproof,” he said.

McAuliffe and Chris Guggenbickler volunteered to write up the new proposal before its May 1 submission deadline.

The committee also opted to draft and submit a letter regarding Wrangell’s necessity for its own Alaska Wildlife Trooper.

“The state’s not planning on filling that position,” said Guggenbickler, chairing the committee. The Department of Public Safety announced it would not replace Trooper Scott Bjork, who was reassigned to the Juneau area from Wrangell last month.

“That doesn’t mean it will never be reopened,” said McAuliffe. He added the position is unlikely to be filled in the foreseeable future, however.

“I have mixed feelings about this,” said Tom Sims, on the committee. “The state has been overspending for years and now we’ve run out of money.”

“However, what is the value of the resources to this state?” he asked. “I think it’s important that we have somebody here.”

Sims felt that the Petersburg-Wrangell area was too big for one trooper to properly cover. And while the position has its enforcement side, he pointed out a trooper also provides essential assistance for search and rescue missions, and is a valuable resource for regulatory information.

“There’s a lot of reasons to write this letter,” Sims concluded. But in the event budget necessities rule out reinstatement of the position in the near future, he wanted to make sure that Wrangell be considered a “top priority” for a new trooper later when the state’s financial situation is eventually improved.

In particular, Sims wanted the letter to stress that Wrangell get a trooper before Petersburg gets a second, and he recommended the letter request Petersburg’s trooper spend half his time posted in the Wrangell area.

The committee also elected to submit letters to Alaska’s congressional delegation and the governor voicing its concern over mining developments in Canada along shared waters.

“That’s been on our agenda for the last year and a half,” John Yeager said of the Southeast Alaska Subsistence Regional Advisory Council he also sits on. At its annual meeting in December the group opted to resubmit similar letters which had dead-ended at the departmental level.

“In my mind it all comes down to the mine, to the dam,” said Guggenbickler. He expressed concern that the scale and type of the mines being developed will require water treatment programs to be maintained in perpetuity.

“It seems the principal is poor,” commented David Rak, the committee’s secretary.

Upstream of the Stikine River in British Columbia, operations began at the Red Chris mine earlier in the month.

The Tahltan Nation had granted the mine’s owner, Imperial Metals, permission to begin releasing effluent into its tailings pond, in keeping with an agreement signed last August.

The property covers a total area of 113 square miles and is comprised of five 30-year mining leases covering 19.8 square miles and 83 mineral claims encompassing 93.98 square miles. The Red Chris project was issued a Mines Act permit in May 2012.

The final waste rock pile is expected to be 500 feet tall and cover an area over 750 acres. Southeast Alaska Conservation Council cites testing which indicates 86 percent of the 307 million tons of waste rock Red Chris may produce is projected to be acid-generating.

Guggenbickler will work on composing a letter for the advisory committee.

Recapping decisions reached in the Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association meeting in January, he also shared that this will be the first year for an expanded Coho salmon release in the Anita Bay area. Guggenbickler added the Anita Bay cohos tend to have a high survival rate, and the release should provide more opportunity for local fisheries.

 

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