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Friday, January 28, 2022

Parnell Gets Fish Slapped

When one grapples for a visual allegory of what happened to the Parnell administration this week, it’s hard to think of anything more appropriate than this:

That’s Sean Parnell on the right, and the Anchorage Superior Court on the left.

The Superior Court ruled that the constitutional rights of Alaskans have been violated by the current administration when Parnell & Co. refused to process a four-year-old application to reserve water in the Chuitna River watershed for wild salmon.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for every Alaskan who wants to protect wild salmon and the Alaskan way of life,” said Ron Burnett, a fisherman, hunter and founding member of the Chuitna Citizens Coalition. You may remember the Burnetts from a trip The Mudflats took to Beluga and Tyonek, the communities most directly affected by the proposed mine. “Time and again, the state of Alaska has put the interests of Outside mining interests ahead of the rights of Alaskan residents. This decision should help restore the balance,” he said.


Ron Burnett of the Chuitna Citizens Coalition in his home in Beluga, Alaska. Photo by J. Devon

In August 2009, the Chuitna Citizens Coalition filed the applications with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, which was headed most recently by Dan Sullivan, current Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. The application attempts to ensure adequate water flows for wild salmon in a tributary of the Chuitna River threatened by the Chuitna coal strip mine.

Last week’s ruling found DNR’s refusal to process the applications amounted to an “unreasonable delay,” and also violated Alaskans’ constitutional rights of due process. The court also noted how the DNR found time to issue water use permits to the coal company while ignoring the requests to keep water in the stream for wild salmon.

“We had to spend a lot of time and money simply to get DNR to obey basic safeguards to protect wild salmon.” said Burnett. “It shouldn’t be this hard to get the Parnell Administration to protect salmon habitat.” Parnell has stated in the past that he’d “never trade one resource for another.” Well… unless it’s trading salmon for coal, which apparently doesn’t count.

PacRim Coal’s proposed Chuitna coal strip mine, right across Cook Inlet from Anchorage would be the first project in state history to mine directly through a wild salmon stream. The Chuit River is home to all five species of salmon, and not only would the mine plow through productive salmon habitat, it would dump millions of gallons of toxic mine sludge into the waters of Cook Inlet every day.


The area surrounding the proposed mine site is criss-crossed with waterways large and small, and delicate wetlands – all of which would have to be drained to a depth of more than 300 feet before mining of the low-quality coal could even begin. (Photo by J. Devon)

The court ruling comes as Gov. Parnell also pushes to deny Alaskans the right to file instream flow reservations to protect salmon, and to remove Alaskans’ voice from many natural resource permitting decisions — through House Bill 77. At least he’s consistent.

“The Parnell Administration knew it was breaking the law when it denied our efforts to keep water in our fish streams, and now it wants to change the law with HB 77 rather than allow Alaskans to protect our salmon,” explains Burnett. “This is part of a steady and deliberate effort to silence Alaskans in basic decisions governing our natural resources.”


Ron Burnett drives his four-wheeler on the western shore of Cook Inlet. (Photo by J. Devon)



9 Responses to “Parnell Gets Fish Slapped”
  1. NickWI says:

    frankly, that area should be a reserve, much like the Bristol Bay area should be, to prevent the mine from going forward. what good are jobs, that depend on creating huge holes in the landscape which are NEVER going to be restored to their past state by the mining company? they cant, because its impossible to restore a mountain to its previous height, or restore a river to its previous depth and clarity. reclamation of area in coal country that were mtr’ed have never been sucessful and basically chitna will be strip mining on a large scale.

  2. No Name says:

    When the fish slap, comes to Parnell, from overseas, we will get the last laugh…hang in there…

  3. Ripley in CT says:

    Well done, again, Alaskans. Never give up on the environment. She’s the only one you have. The fact that he addressed the coal company’s application and not yours speaks volumes. A big loss for the Parnell/Palin admininstration, for sure. A huge win for the salmon!

    Is this the beginning of the ethics violation trail for Palin lite? Not that anything will actually fall down on his head either….

  4. Alaska Pi says:

    I haven’t finished reading it but here is the decision:

    Cap’n pants-on-fire Torpedo and his DNR have worked very, very hard to run land and resource issues like a corporate board of directors, to whom there is no appeal.
    I’m glad they got fish slapped on this one but we cannot let our guard down.
    This is the most opaque administration I can remember – there is definitely some scurrying behind the scenes going on. They’re not done with this. Not by a long shot.

  5. Zyxomma says:

    I only wish that slap had been with the real Parnell, and a full-size adult halibut.

  6. LA Brian says:

    Schlip! Schlap! Schlip-a-schlap avay!

    PS: Best of Success on the battle!

  7. ugavic says:

    HB 77 is going to be one big battle IF we can get the public to realize what is going on.

    • Alaska Pi says:

      Alaskans- please remember HB 77 advanced to the Senate last session after passage in the House. It was sent back to the Senate Rules Committee after the 3rd reading on the floor.
      The current committee is made up of McGuire, Coghill, Meyer, and Huggins with Ellis as the only sane voice on it.
      The battle has already been joined!
      Mr Parnell’s patriarchal approach to state government , all the while insisting on populist notions of federal over reach and the like is a total load of horsepunky. Pffft!

  8. Moose Pucky says:

    Citizens have every right to demand healthy habitat for their wild fish stocks. Parnell fails big time.