Chuitna coal project draws fire in Kenai hearing

January 20, 2011 

Opponents of the proposed Chuitna coal mine on the western rim of Cook Inlet far outnumbered backers of the project at a public hearing Wednesday in Kenai, reports the Peninsula Clarion. The PacRim Coal plan calls for digging through 11 miles of salmon streams and then restoring them after a minimum of 25 years of mining.

Nearly 150 people attended the hearing presided over by two members of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, with 56 signed up to submit spoken testimony. In addition to the representatives present from the DNR, Department of Fish and Game staff members, sport and commercial fishermen, lodge owners, Alaska Native subsistence users, and many others all turned out to speak their minds and hear the input of others.

Many attendees echoed the same complaint: There is no real way to rebuild and restore a salmon stream after its destruction.

"I've looked at many, many projects of this magnitude," said Debbie Oudiz, a Homer resident and retired environmental toxicologist who worked for the California Environmental Protection Agency for over 25 years. "And none of them have been able to restore the environment back to the original conditions."

Only two people in the audience clapped when a PacRim representative said coal mining and a healthy salmon population need not be mutually exclusive.

Read more in the Clarion. A bus charter brought residents of Anchorage and the Valley to Kenai hearing; the Anchorage blog The Mudflats has its own report and more photos.

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