I've been planning to do an update on the Chuitna Decision, but I needed to go through it carefully and figure out reasonable questions. I thought I'd ask David Schade, the head of the Water Division, who signed the decision and then some of the other interested parties.
But life happens and I only got through to David today. We haven't had a chance to discuss my questions, but he did tell me that he'd been told there were eight appeals by late this afternoon - people had 20 calendar days to get appeals in, and the decision was on October 6. He hadn't seen them yet, so he didn't know who submitted them.
Here are some of the kinds of questions I had:
1. Was this decision a postponement of the decision or a denial? It seems to me that at one point the decision says that the Upper and Central fork portions of the Middle River, which are in the proposed mining area, are ripe for decision yet because the the mine's water reservations aren't complete. That sounds like things are postponed. But elsewhere it says the reservations have been denied, which sounds final.
2. What is the state of PacRim’s water reservation applications? Different references were made to their applications but it wasn't clear where they were.
- not ready to be submitted because not enough info?
- have they submitted incomplete applications? What does this mean?
- if submitted, when were they submitted?
3. The Department finds that it is in the public interest to allow the
PacRim permitting review process to be completed, and therefore that it
would not be in the public interest to issue a reservation of water on
the Main or Middle Reaches of Middle Creek/Stream
2003 at this time.
Is this a logical fallacy? If one is in the public interest, does that
automatically mean the other isn’t? What this does seem to be saying is that if the
reservation is issued, the permitting process would end.
4. Can PacRim really close down the Middle Fork above the Lower Reach and divert the water around and back to the Lower Reach and this won't harm the salmon? Is there a difference between naturally flowing stream water and water that goes through culverts and how does that impact the quality of the water when it gets returned to the natural water way? And how long would the water be cut off from the Lower Reach while this is being constructed? Or are those questions people are still waiting on answers for?
There are more questions, but this gives you an idea. The Oct 6 decision is linked at the earlier post on this.