by the United Tribes of Bristol Bay
Tribes, fishermen and Alaskans have voiced extensive concerns over the Dunleavy Administration’s efforts to unduly restrict the rights of Alaskans in holding water reservations to protect our fisheries and water-dependent ways of life.
Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources proposed major changes to the state’s water reservations systems to favor resource development over the protection of fisheries, recreation or municipal uses. The proposed changes are an attempt to silence Alaskans’ voices in protecting the waters that provide the food, culture, recreation, and income we depend on.
The changes would continue to allow and prioritize industrial interests to hold water rights and take water from Alaskan streams, but would not allow Alaska Native Tribes, community organizations, individuals or even the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to hold the reservations that ensure vital waterways remain intact for future generations.
Tribes, conservation and fishing organizations and others have voiced opposition to the proposed changes since they were initially published in January and submitted extensive questions about the proposal to the Department of Natural Resources. More than a thousand Alaskans also opposed the state’s proposal during the public comment period that ended April 2, 2021, which was twice extended due to the controversial nature of the proposal. A hearing on the proposed changes in the Alaska Legislature has been requested.
“Alaska Native Tribes, fishermen, businesses and individuals who depend on healthy fisheries deserve the right to protect those resources by ensuring that enough water is always left in our rivers, streams and lakes. With increasing pressure on our water resources, the state should instead develop an automatic instream flow reservation system that properly protects our vital resources in an equitable way,” said Sommers Cole, a Southeast Alaska Commercial Fisherman.
“It is unconscionable that after thousands of years of careful stewardship of Alaska’s waters, Tribes are now being told by the state government that they cannot have a say in protecting our waters for future generations. This shows that the Dunleavy Administration is once again prioritizing Outside corporations over the people of Alaska,” said Jonathan “JJ” Larson, Second Chief of Curyung Tribal Council in Dillingham.
“The Dunleavy Administration has yet again proven that they are out of touch with the vast majority of Alaskans, who recognize the importance of prioritizing our clean water resources and ensuring they can continue to provide the foundation for our communities, economies, cultures and ways of life in Alaska. The state should work with Alaskans trying to protect our vital waterways, rather than making it more difficult for us to do so,” said Alannah Hurley, Executive Director of United Tribes of Bristol Bay Executive Director.
“Alaska’s fishermen, and all who are dependent on our State’s robust aquatic resources, are in the best position to advocate for their protection and longevity. Reserving enough water in streams to protect fish is in the best interest of the state, communities, subsistence users and commercial and sportfishing businesses that depend on healthy fisheries. This proposal keeps Alaskans out of the process and minimizes the most important voices connected to these resources.” – Katherine Carscallen, Executive Director of Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay.