Cordova Times: Murkowski urges suspending federal funds for Canadian transboundary watershed projects

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is urging the Biden administration to suspend any U.S. assistance to Canadian mining projects until environmental protections are established for transboundary wild salmon rivers flowing into Southeast Alaska. 

In a letter to President Biden sent on Sept. 15, and released publicly on Sept. 26, Murkowski urged Biden “not to allocate any U.S. funding to Canadian projects in the transboundary watershed in general, and to withhold all U.S. support for [mining] projects within Canada until… conditions are met.”

Murkowski commended the Biden administration for investing $37.5 million through the Department of Defense (DOD) in the Graphite One project to establish a substantial domestic source of natural graphite production in Alaska, as well as anode manufacturing and battery recycling facilities in Washington state. The mine would break the nation’s wholesale dependence on imports and build a domestic supply chain for this critical mineral. Graphite One, with offices in Vancouver, British Columbia, has its focus on development of critical minerals underpinning 21st century technology that stand to have a positive impact in communities where the company operates.

If developed, the Graphic One mine would be the largest known deposit of graphite in the U.S. and help to power the nation’s move into the electric vehicle revolution. Still, as the project moves forward, Alaskans whose lifestyles would be affected by the mine project have voiced concerns about the mine’s potential adverse impact on subsistence harvests.

While in support of the Graphic One mine, Murkowski is concerned that similar assistance for mining projects in western British Columbia have the potential to harm habitat on these salmon rich rivers.  Salmon swimming through these transboundary rivers are of critical importance to commercial fishermen, seafood processors and others affiliated with the commercial fishing industry, as well as the multi-million-dollar sport fishing industry, subsistence hunters, and wildlife including bears and bald eagles.

Salmon Beyond Borders, the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, and Alaska Trollers Association on Sept. 26 commended Murkowski for urging that the U.S. government deny subsidies to Canadian mining operations until existential Canadian mining threats to rivers flowing into Alaska are adequately addressed.?

“Alaska has a deep commitment to maintaining healthy fish habitat,” said Linda Behnken, executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. “But our hands are tied when the habitat threat is outside our boundaries. We deeply appreciate Senator Murkowski and Representative Peltola’s advocacy for our fish and fisheries and we urge President Biden to listen to those calling for strong enforceable international protection for this valuable, sustainable resource.”

By:  Margaret Bauman
Source: Cordova Times