Defend the Chuitna River from Coal Mining

The following guest blog from Bob Shavelson is a part of our America’s Most Endangered Rivers® series — Chuitna River, Alaska.

Join us in our quest to defend the Chuitna River throughout February, and be sure to take action!

Middle Creek In Permit Area | Brandon HillMiddle Creek | Brandon Hill

Ten years ago, I saw a public notice for a proposed coal strip mine on the remote west side of Cook Inlet in southcentral Alaska. It caught my attention because my organization had been studying the effects of climate change on Alaska’s beloved salmon streams, and the results weren’t good— rising streams temperatures were making our cold-water salmon more vulnerable to pollution, predation and disease. The last thing Alaska salmon needed was another coal mine.

But there was another aspect of the project that caught my attention: this proposed strip mine – located in the Chuitna River watershed about 40 miles west of Anchorage – would be the first project in Alaska history to mine directly through more a dozen miles of wild stream. This dangerous precedent posed a threat to salmon streams across the state, because if they could mine through salmon habitat in the heart of Cook Inlet, they could do it anywhere.

Today, defending against the proposed Chuitna Coal Project is the number one priority for Cook Inletkeeper. Despite the recent downturn in Pacific basin coal markets, Chuitna coal proponents continue to press for the permits needed to build a massive strip mine and associated storage and exports facilities. Alaska boasts an enormous amount of coal – roughly one-eighth of the world’s reserves – and a new tidewater port will turn the Cook Inlet Basin into a coal-producing province for the foreseeable future.

Over the past decade, we have had some wonderful successes and some frustrating stumbles. Cook Inletkeeper has worked side-by-side with Native Alaskans who rely on wild salmon for subsistence. We’ve joined arms with commercial fishermen who rely on salmon to support their families. We’ve also connected with sport fishermen, tourism groups and local communities to forge a dynamic alliance that is saying “no” to coal and “yes” to healthy, wild Alaskan salmon.

Salmon define who we are as Alaskans, and the Chuitna coal strip mine poses a direct threat to our culture, our economy and our lifestyle. In 2016, we expect to see draft permit documents for the Chuitna coal mine, and with an outpouring of opposition, we hope to put this short-sighted project to bed once and for all.

Click Here to help us defend the Chuitna River by asking Alaska’s Governor Bill Walker and Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotton to deny permits for this harmful project!


Bob Shavelson is the Executive Director at Cook Inletkeeper in Homer, Alaska.

8 Responses to “Defend the Chuitna River from Coal Mining”

Jan Van Beeken

In the US there are abundant rules and regulations to protect the environment from errant miners.

Rather than simply calling for a ban there is the need to ensure that projects of this nature can work to the benefit of all – I.e. the environment, the people and the economy.

Alaskans should partake with pride in the discussions with the mines and ask how they can be involved and how together assurances can be put in place that allows for a world class model mine that supports the both the immediate and greater environment and that supports social programs and jobs comes into effect. Something to showcase to the world that sustainable mining can be beneficial and can be done right.

Open dialogue should not be feared but rather embraced for the benefit of all.

Doug Stephens

Governor Walker, Regarding the proposed coal mine that would eliminate miles of salmon stream, under the vague premise that it will be restored once the coal is removed, decades in the future: Please, just stop it now, using whatever tools at your disposal.

The Alaska constitution makes the citizens the owners of the fish in the river, under the mandate of sustainable use. Destroying the Chuitna cannot be called sustainable. Removing miles of salmon stream, for decades, with no guarantee that is can be reproduced, cannot by the wildest stretch of the imagination be considered sustainable.

In other words, when litigated, which it surely will be, any permit or use that allows these salmon streams to be destroyed will ultimately be found unconstitutional.

Please save us all a lot of grief; cut to the chase and forbid these permits in the first place.


Douglas A. Stephens
Anchorage, AK

Lynn Kush

Please deny permits for the Chuitna coal strip mine. Do not let this watershed become a wasteland.

Nancy Mitchell

Do not allow disgusting Coal mining to destroy this beautiful river. Don’t allow the salmon to be destroyed. Please Bill walker show everyone you have a soul. Do the right thing not the greedy stupid thing……..

Nick Chambers

I have worked in Alasks as well as the PNW, the fisheries resources that are present in Alaska are unique in this day and age, and need to be protected. Coal extraction is a short term economic benefit, and it is the unsustainable exploitation of resources for quick economic gain that has led to the massive reductions of natural resource production in the PNW. We must learn from our mistakes and protect our resources for future generations. Salmon and clean water are precious and in the long run worth far more than any coal buried in the ground. Protect our fisheries because it is the morally right thing to do, and the fiscally responsible thing to do.

Felix Gallegos

Dear Governor Walker and Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotton,
Save the Chuitna River. Listen to your native peoples. They have a huge stake in the Chuitna River. So many of our watersheds today have been ruined by disturbing or altering their courses. In today’s fragile ecosystem, clean, fresh undisturbed waters are a rare gem. You guys are blessed to be so lucky. Don’t destroy it, embrace it, cherish it. It’s the way we want all our rivers to be. Beautiful, natural and in it’s prestine state.
Thank you,
Concerned Citizen

Ray Cammisa

The Chuitna River Watershed is no place for coal development. Coal will soon be obsolete and the state will once again left footing the bill. Just say NO to Coal in the watershed.