Citizens Sue for Chuitna Water Rights

The Chuitna Citizens Coalition took the Department of Natural Resources to court last week, seeking a decision on their water rights application. The application was filed in 2009 and would halt the development of the Chuitna Coal Project. Close to four years later, there’s still been no decision from the DNR.

 

Arguments were heard last Wednesday. The judge is yet to issue a decision.

 

This is the second push for conservation rights in recent months, after the DNR denied a “lands unsuitable” petition last July. DNR Deputy Commissioner Ed Fogels explained…

 

Fogels: “It’s very important to understand is that there are two things going on here, one is that we’re doing a huge environmental analysis, creating a very thorough Environmental Impact Statement, to analyze the potential impacts of this proposed mine, and then only after that is done will we start making our decisions on whether it should go forward or not.”

 

The DNR blamed a lack of resources for the delay in processing the petition, but the presiding judge said constitutional rights trump staffing concerns.

 

Further complicating the process is HB 77, currently pending in the State Legislature, which would change how the DNR issues permits. Critics say it eliminates the public process. The Governor says it “encourages responsible development of our State land and water resources,” since “an efficient permitting process with clear rules contributes to Alaskan economic growth and creates more Alaskan business opportunities.”

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