Chilkat, Klehini Rivers among most endangered

American Rivers has named the Chilkat and Klehini Rivers among America’s Most Endangered Rivers, pointing out the threat of a proposed copper and zinc mine that would likely result in contamination of nearby creeks that feed directly into the two rivers.

The environmental entity Rivers Without Borders on Tuesday said that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should now enforce the Clean Water Act to ensure appropriate permits are obtained for the Palmer Project by the Canadian and Japanese consortium American Pacific Mining and Dowa Mining and Metals. Furthermore, in order to best care for the watershed, Congress should establish co-management of the area’s federal lands with the Chilkat Indian Village of Klukwan, Rivers Without Borders said.

“The Chilkat Valley is an incredibly unique habitat for all five species of wild salmon, bald eagles, brown bears, and people because the Chilkat and Klehini Rivers are pristine and productive. Developing this copper/zinc mine will result in a huge loss for the region, Alaska, the nation, and the rest of the world,” said Gershon Cohen, project director of Alaska Clean Water Advocacy.

“Wild salmon are under increasing threat from climate change and ocean conditions, which means we must do all we can to protect freshwater habitat. The Canadian and Japanese owners of this project have refused to engage with Haines or the CIV, have not applied for or received the proper permits related to water quality, and clearly don’t care about the health and productivity of the Chilkat watershed,” said Chris Zimmer, the Alaska Director for Rivers Without Borders. “We can’t let short term mine profits for foreign companies threaten the long-term health of the Chilkat watershed and those who depend on it.”

The annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a list of rivers at a crossroads, where key decisions in the coming months will determine the rivers’ fates. The report has helped spur many successes including the removal of outdated dams, the protection of rivers with Wild and Scenic designations, and the prevention of harmful development and pollution.

Rivers in the region listed as most endangered in past years include the Chilkat River in 2019, Stikine River in 2019, and Rivers of Bristol Bay in 2018.