FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 15th, 2022
Contact: Natalie Dawson, 907-227-3407, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tribe raises sovereignty and Clean Water Act concerns in challenge to state agency
KLUKWAN, Alaska (Tlákw Aan) — The Chilkat Indian Village of Klukwan (CIV) successfully challenged the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s (ADEC) conditional approval of the Palmer Project’s wastewater discharge system. ADEC vacated the approval for 30 days, putting a halt to construction and remanding it for internal review until October 6th, in response to issues the Tribe raised regarding public process and likely Clean Water Act violations.
“Protecting the pristine quality of the Chilkat River Watershed is our responsibility and enshrined in our Tribal Constitution. Our government will continue to carry out our duty to ensure a system built to discharge mine wastewater and waste rock does not contaminate the pristine quality of the Chilkat River Watershed,” said Chilkat Indian Village Tribal President Kimberly Strong.
ADEC approved the wastewater discharge system on May 27, 2022, without public notice, and without consulting with CIV, denying the Tribe’s — and the public’s — right to evaluate and comment on the proposed discharge system. CIV has engaged in government-to-government consultation with ADEC on this permit since 2019, after successfully challenging the original Waste Management Permit (WMP) that ADEC issued that year. The 2019 remand remains unresolved.
“We have lived here since time immemorial. Geologic and hydrologic hazards are significant on Klukwan lands. The State of Alaska has made a commitment to recognize Tribal sovereignty. We would like DEC to address our concerns prior to approving this permit. This is not an unreasonable request,” said CIV Vice President, Jones P. Hotch, Jr.
CIV asserts that ADEC’s construction approval was arbitrary, because the agency “lacks sufficient information to determine the facility’s discharges will not enter Glacier Creek—and, in fact, the information in the record indicates the facility will very likely discharge to Glacier Creek,” according to the complaint, filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Tribe August 24. “The decision authorizes Constantine to construct a system that will almost certainly violate the Clean Water Act, state law, and the terms of the underlying waste management permit by creating an unpermitted discharge to surface waters.”
ADEC Commissioner Jason Brune denied the requests for an adjudicatory hearing and a stay but honored CIV’s challenge by remanding the approval for further review, setting an October 6, 2022, deadline for a final decision on all remanded issues—both the original remand of the 2019 permit, and
the Clean Water Act issues raised in the new challenge. The impacted waters are critical to the Tribe for the salmon and other life they support, and for their cultural significance.
“Glacier Creek and the adjacent areas are Sacred Sites. It is an integral junction to the trade routes that we have owned and used for many years,” Hotch said.
Chilkat Indian Village (Klukwan) is a federally recognized tribal government whose traditional territory encompasses Jilḵáat Aani Ḵa Héeni (Chilkat River Watershed).