Letter urges invoking U.S.-Canada Boundary Waters Treaty

Twenty-two science and policy experts are calling for governments of the United States and Canada to immediately address damages and risks of Canadian mine pollution flowing downstream into salmon rich rivers in the United States.

Their letter published in the journal Science also calls on the federal governments of both nations to invoke the U.S.-Canada Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 and address the issue of British Columbia mine assessments they say are neither adequately based on defensible science nor adequately protect these transboundary waters from mining pollution.

The Taku, Stikine-Iskut and Unuk-Nass are transboundary watersheds and home to world class salmon rivers that originate in northwest British Columbia and flow into Southeast Alaska. These rivers and their watersheds have been important to the culture, commerce and biodiversity of the region for thousands of years and are the lifeblood of numerous communities and 19 federally recognized tribes in the region.

There are currently over two dozen large scale Canadian mines in some phase of development or operation at the headwaters of these rivers.

The Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska has called on the U.S. government for action under the Boundary Waters Treaty and to meaningfully engage the tribes of Southeast Alaska. The council itself has been working since 2015 to collect baseline water quality data, sediment samplings and doing water quality surveys on the Taku and Stikine rivers and in 2018 expanded its scope to the Alsek River near Yakutat and the Chilkat and Klehini rivers outside of Klukwan and Haines.