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A huge coal strip-mining operation proposed on Alaska’s Chuitna River by the owner of the Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort in Utah has drawn the ire of groups concerned about the mine’s contribution to global warming.

Richard Bass, who owns the prominent Utah resort, has partnered with William H. Hunt to form PacRim Coal LLC, which has submitted permit applications to build a coal mine directly on top of 11 miles of prime salmon fisheries feeding the Cook Inlet.

The Chuitna river. Photo: Damion Brook Kintz

The Chuitna river. Photo: Damion Brook Kintz

In addition to its contributions to global warming, the mine would destroy one of Alaska’s most productive salmon fisheries. According to three scientific analyses of the mine’s impacts being released today, it is highly unlikely that the river’s fishery would ever recover from damage done by the mining. This year, the Chuitna River was one of the few rivers in the Cook Inlet region where fisherman enjoyed a healthy king salmon run. But if the mine is built, the studies determined, damage done directly to the streams and approximately 30 square miles of surrounding riparian habitat within the watershed would be irreversible.

While, as Ryan Demmy Bidwell of the Ski Area Citizen’s Coalition has noted, the irony of the proposal coming from a business owner dependent on heavy snow fall and consistent winters is not lost on us, Bass mine proposal is even more hypocritical since Snowbird has been an active participant in the National Ski Area Associations Sustainable Slopes program, whose environmental initiatives include reducing greenhouse gas emissions from resorts in order to protect the climate.

For More Information:

  • Read the press release.
  • The Great Alaska Coal Rush, by Tomas Alex Tizon, in Sierra Magazine. July/August 2009.
  • Executive summaries and full text of the scientific studies listed below can be found on the Cook Inletkeeper’s website.
    1. Report on Chuitna Coal Project Aquatic Studies and Fish and Wildlife Protection Plan
    2. Chuitna Coal Mine Baseline Monitoring and Restoration Plan Review
    3. Report on Chuitna Coal Project of PacRim Coal

Post by Morey Burnham