Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Chuitna Citizens Coalition Gets Rights on Lower Reach of Middle Creek/Stream 2003 But Not Main And Middle Reaches

 The decision is just out.  Here's the DNR press release with links to the decision.  Haven't had time to figure out what it means.  At first glance this looks like a cutting the baby in thirds decision that will leave everyone dissatisfied, but then the parts of the Creek where rights weren't granted, it seems, weren't denied, but deferred because "they were not ready for decision."  

[Note at 11:17am same day after a little more careful reading:  It also says at the end:  "We will not approve significant impacts to the Chuitna River."  The mine plans to excavate thousands of acres 300 feet deep, including parts of the river.  They then say they will restore it after the coal mining.  But shutting down of the river - even if they actually can restore it later - has to qualify as "significant impacts" and so this seems to be a significant win for the Chuitna Citizens Coalition.]

Here's the press release: (with links to the whole decision)
"Decision reached on water reservation applications in Chuitna River watershed
The Division of Mining, Land & Water has issued a decision on the Chuitna Citizens Coalition Inc.'s three applications for instream flow reservations for Middle Creek/Stream 2003, a tributary of the Chuitna River. Two of the applications are for segments of the stream located within the footprint of the proposed Chuitna Coal project.
After review of the facts in the administrative record, public comments and hearing, the decision grants the Chuitna Citizen Coalition's application for the lower reach of Middle Creek/Stream 2003 but does not grant its applications for the creek's main and middle reaches. This decision does not award any permits or water rights to the proposed coal project.
This decision is a reasoned approach that reached conclusion on the lower reach of Middle Creek/Stream 2003 while denying the applications for reservations on the main and middle reaches because they are not ready for decision. The division cannot not yet determine, on this incomplete record, which of the competing applications for the same water would be subject to a preference as the most beneficial use. The division will adjudicate any remaining requests for water rights or instream flow applications in the Chuitna River watershed after the Clean Water Act 404, Surface Mining Coal Regulatory Act (SMCRA) and Title 16 fish habitat permits are done so that we can consider impacts to the watershed by an approved mine plan. We will not approve significant impacts to the Chuitna River. [emphasis added]
Please review the following documents to better understand the decision.

OK, that's it for now.  The mine company, PacRim, and the various other opponents flat out said the reservation should be rejected, so in that sense it's a loss for them and a win for the Chuitna Citizens Coalition, but I hate to talk in terms of wins and losses.

This is not over and the decision is likely to be challenged in court. 

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