After a three-month delay, the Taku River Fact-Finding Task Force will meet next week for the first time. The task force was created in September by Juneau’s legislative delegation to gather facts about the river and possible impacts of Tulsequah Chief Mine redevelopment on the Canadian side of the Taku River watershed.
The Taku River is the most abundant salmon-producer in Southeast Alaska.
Scheduling difficulties prevented task force members from meeting with Fish and Game, Natural Resources, and other agency experts until January 5th, about three weeks after a report to Juneau legislators was due.
Facilitator Kevin Ritchie says the first two meetings will chart the course of the task force. No formal deadline has been set for the report.
He emphasizes the task force’s fact-finding mission:
“It’s not out there to make decisions, or recommendations, or to propose legislation or anything like that, but to provide the community, legislators and other folks information about what the issues area, what kind of things the state can do and so on,” Ritchie says.
Task Force members represent the Alaska Native community, commercial and private property owners, commercial fishing and fish processors, sport fish and charter boat operators, and include a retired biologist.
Ritchie says they will review the biological health of Taku River fish stocks, habitat, and game; determine the agencies responsible for monitoring industrial river traffic, vessel safety and spill response; and also assess the effectiveness of current state and federal statutes and regulations.
Ritchie says Tulsequah Mine developers Chieftain Metals have been invited to the task force meetings.
Construction on the multi-metal mine is to begin sometime next year. Chieftain recently reached agreement with Denver-based Royal Gold to pay up to $60 million for the right to gold and silver produced from the mine. Royal Gold has pledged a $10-million advance payment at closing of the deal, and an additional $50 million mine construction.