Murkowski Holds Transboundary Roundtable

IJC Commissioners, Federal, State, and Tribal Leaders Discuss Transboundary

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), joined by U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), today led a roundtable discussion on transboundary issues, bringing together federal, state, tribal, and local leaders as well as visiting Commissioners from the International Joint Commission (IJC), the bilateral panel under the Boundary Waters Treaty between the United States and Canada. The roundtable discussion focused on educating IJC Commissioners about Alaska’s transboundary watersheds, Alaska’s water quality monitoring, concerns Alaskans have voiced about upstream mining activity in British Columbia, and actions made by Alaskans to engage with Canadian counterparts to raise such concerns.

In addition to U.S. Senators Murkowski and Sullivan, roundtable participants included IJC Commissioners Jane Corwin, Rob Sisson, and Lane Yohe from the U.S. Section of the IJC and Commissioner Pierre Beland, Chair of the Canadian Section of the IJC. Other participants included Alaska Dept. of Natural Resources Commissioner, Corri Feige; Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game Commissioner, Doug Vincent-Lang; Alaska Dept. of Environmental Conservation Commissioner, Jason Brune; Rob Sanderson of the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes, AK Senator Jesse Kiehl, Representative Sara Hannan, Representative Dan Ortiz; and representatives from the Office of Governor Michael Dunleavy, Alaska Miners Association, Council of Alaska Producers, Salmon Beyond Borders, United Fishermen of Alaska, EPA-Region 10, U.S. Geological Survey-Alaska Science Center, U.S. Forest Service-Alaska Region, and National Marine Fisheries Service.

“Alaskans know that development can be done properly with the appropriate standards and oversight in place—we have proven this in our own backyard. This is the conversation that the Alaska Delegation has been pushing our State Department to engage in with their Canadian counterparts for more than 7 years. Senator Sullivan and I have also been proactive in engaging directly with leaders in Ottawa and British Columbia,” said Senator Murkowski. “The more people we can educate on this issue, the better –especially those serving at high levels in our government.”

“I want to thank Senator Murkowski and her team for setting up this important meeting," said Senator Sullivan. "We are finally making real progress on the transboundary mining issue. The best way to build on this momentum is for Canadian officials to work expeditiously to fully and finally remediate the Tulsequah Chief mine to prevent further pollution into the Taku River. This is an issue I’ve been pressing senior Canadian officials on, including Prime Minister Trudeau. I am hopeful we’ll see progress soon.”

IJC Roundtable Meeting

During the roundtable, Senator Murkowski stressed that her primary concerns are whether there is a management framework in place to ensure that mines near U.S-Canada shared transboundary rivers are permitted in a way that considers cumulative impacts on these watersheds, that mines operate responsibly with proper oversight, and that they are sufficiently bonded to cover clean-up and remediation at the end of their lifespan.

“Alaska is a resource state. We are blessed with abundant fish, minerals, timber, oil, gas, and wildlife. As Alaskans, we take seriously our responsibility to manage these incredible resources so that the livelihoods they support can coexist in harmony,” Murkowski said. “My longstanding concern is that our neighbors in British Columbia are not meeting a similar high standard with regard to the impacts of hard rock mining on other resources and livelihoods in transboundary watersheds –especially the downstream fisheries that support tribes and coastal communities in Alaska.”

During the roundtable, Murkowski and Sullivan highlighted efforts made by the Congressional Delegation, such as securing critical funding and resources for water quality monitoring as well as coordination between federal, state, and tribal leaders to engage with Canadian counterparts on transboundary issues.  

Background: In June 2019, Senator Murkowski led a letter with Senator Sullivan from the U.S. delegations of Idaho, Montana, and Washington to Premier John Horgan of British Columbia (BC), urging attention and action on key issues related to transboundary mining practices, including encouraging standards of oversight and accountability for BC development projects similar to what is required on the U.S. side of the border. In February 2019 Murkowski secured additional funding in a package for Fiscal Year 2019 for transboundary water quality monitoring and the continued work of the interagency working group convened in 2017 by the EPA, State Department, and USGS to address concerns related to BC mining activity in shared watersheds.