Wednesday, March 13, 2013

MEDIA ADVISORY: Alaska groups and Tribes oppose Alaska Senate Bill SB 26. Legislature moves to privatize Alaska’s waters

Alaska groups and Tribes oppose Alaska Senate Bill SB 26

Anchorage, Alaska   Tuesday March 12, 2013 for immediate release, addendum will follow.
Delice Calcote: 907-563-9334   AlaskaInter-Tribal Council
Carl Wassilie:   907- 382-3403  Alaska’s Big Village Network
Nikos Pastos:  907-764-2561   Center for Water Advocacy 
Emily Murray      Norton Bay Inter - Tribal Watershed Council

Alaska groups and Tribes oppose Alaska Senate Bill SB 26
Protect Alaskans Interest over Corporate Interest .
Alaska Tribes and subsistence fisherman aredisproportionately impacted by Alaska SB 26 that revokes all current waterreservations held by Alaskan residents to reserve their right to in stream flowwater reservations. The Alaska House of Representatives have already passedthis version of the  bill (HB77) that supports outside multi-nationalcorporations easy access to Alaska's salmon streams over the pre-existingrights of indigenous Alaskans and other citizens. “The State, for example,already, routinely, processes water use applications for mining, oil and gasuses, while placing on the back burner, simultaneously or previously filedapplications to keep water in stream for healthy fish and wildlife habitat.Similarly, the division often allows the energy industry to take water without,even, filing an application.
“That SB 26 takes the State’s legallyquestionable water right permitting process a giant step further, isillustrated by the fact that, in addition to the prohibition on in stream flowapplications, the bill contains numerous attacks on the rights of citizens andtribes to protect Alaska’s water rights.” – Hal Shepherd  Executive Director Center for
Water Advocacy

“Altitude,vegetation, good climate and rich soils have combined to contribute to thedevelopment of subsistence livelihood as the most vibrant sector of the economyand the sector from which most of the Alaskan population derives their sustenance,nourishment and means of support for their families and communities.
-Emily Murray is a  Board member Norton Bay Inter-Tribal Watershed Council

Support Alaskans and fisher peoples to reserve waters for healthy salmon habitat.

"Our waters,fish, wildlife and Salmon habitat are threatened by SB26 that strips Alaskansrights to reserve water for future generations and fish productivity. Please tell your Senator to say no to this bad bill." – Carl Wassilie   Yupiaq biologist  with Alaska’s Big Village Network

Alaska Inter-Tribal Council :  The Constitution of the State of Alaska, General Provision Article XII, Section 12.  Disclaimer and Agreement: ....
"...The State and its people further disclaim all right or title in or to any property, including fishing rights, the right or title to which may be held by or for any Indian, Eskimo, or Aleut, or community thereof, as that right or title is defined in the act of admission."
   Our rights to fish are protected like in no other State Constitution.  "The first consideration for the waters of the lakes, the rivers and oceans are to be reserved to protect and promote a healthy fishery, forever.   Fisheries and wildlife are considered to be of esthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational, scientific value to the Nation and its people and our peoples have rights of first in time and first in line to the resources we use and hold with spiritual, cultural and historical value."
- Delice Calcote Executive Director, Alaska Inter-Tribal Council

Carl Wassilie:  907-764-2561   Alaska’s Big Village Network  3724 Campbell Airstrip Road, Anchorage,Alaska 99504  
Nikos Pastos:   907-764-2561   Center for Water Advocacy  P.O. Box 2903Seward, AK 99664
Delice Calcote: 907-563-9334   AlaskaInter-Tribal Council 555 Northern Lights Blvd. Anchorage, Alaska 99501
  Emily Murray is a board member of the Norton Bay Inter-Tribal Watershed Council
Carl Wassilie is a Yupiaq biologist  with Alaska’s BigVillage Network
Hal Shepherd is thedirector of the Center for Water Advocacy.
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Addressing and Defining Economics
                            By Emily Murray    -Norton Bay Inter-Tribal Watershed Council   
            Thelast two months have been very challenging; especially with the House Bill 77and Senate Bill 26 being requested by Governor Parnell. And now HB 78 and SB 27on wetland permitting are being considered. Currently the U.S. Army Corps ofEngineers permits nearly all wetland dredges and fill permits. The Governor’sproposal would put DNR and DEC in charge. Currently the wetlands permitting processunder the Army Corps has an extensive public process. Wetlands cover a hugeportion of the Arctic, and input for local residents is critical to ensure theappropriate measures are taken for projects.
            Alaskais endowed with many rivers; creeks and wetlands are a natural resource in theeconomy of both the indigenous and non-native people alike. Since both relyheavily on the wildlife and fisheries that habitat these areas. The drainagesystems are vital because they provide fertile soil for subsistence activitiesand a healthy ecosystem for all natural habitats. Subsistence is the backbone of the Alaskan economy thatmost of, if not all indigenous and non-native derive their subsistence livelihoodfrom.
            Altitude,vegetation, good climate and rich soils have combined to contribute to thedevelopment of subsistence livelihood as the most vibrant sector of the economyand the sector from which most of the Alaskan population derives their sustenance,nourishment and means of support for their families and communities. Despitethe foregoing changes that characterize Alaskan indigenous and non-nativepopulation; there are certain core values still cherished by segments of thepopulation regardless of their educational, religious, and economic status. Andmaintaining a healthy ecosystem creates adynamic economy for indigenous and non-native Alaskans alike.
            Hence,if these House and Senate Bills are adopted these acts will NOT work to the advantage of Alaskans.If these Bills pass it will bring destruction to the people who rely on themillions of healthy water bodies and tens of millions of wetlands in Alaska.
In closing, thereis NO THOUGHT of the future, noconcept of the future as the Governor requests to put these Bills in place.Everything is in the NOW! The companies have NO regard for indigenous and non-nativeinterests, especially for their economic well-being.  Communities through  tightly controlled, educational (subsistencehunting and fishing), kinship structure and familial support invigorates andminimizes the problem of destitution by providing economic, social andemotional security.   By keeping ourwetlands clean we are ensuring a healthy ecosystem and communities for allAlaskans. Think about it: “The riches aren’t in the ground, they are all aroundus.”
Legislature moves to privatize Alaska’s waters By Hal Shepherd
While arepresentative for the Alaska Division of Mining Land and Water was making apresentation during Senate Resources Committee hearings on SB 26 in the StateLegislature last week, the committee asked him who would be affected by thebill. Remarkably, the response was that the bill, which would limit those whoare authorized to apply for an in stream water right under the Alaska Water UseCode, to only state or federal government agencies, would affect only a fewprivate individuals and several dozen non-governmental entities.
The failure of the division, however, to mention that SB 26 would also prohibitNative Alaskan Tribal Governments from applying for in stream flows, isperhaps, the biggest indication that the Bill represents the latest tactic inGovernor Parnell’s ongoing campaign to quickly and quietly privatize Alaska’swater resources.
The State, for example, already, routinely, processes water use applicationsfor mining, oil and gas uses, while placing on the back burner, simultaneouslyor previously filed applications to keep water in stream for healthy fish andwildlife habitat. Similarly, the division often allows the energy industry totake water without, even, filing an application.
That SB 26 takes the State’s legally questionable water right permittingprocess a giant step further, is illustrated by the fact that, in addition tothe prohibition on in stream flow applications, the bill contains numerousattacks on the rights of citizens and tribes to protect Alaska’s water rights.
These include limits on public comment or appeals when the State issues waterright permits, but only for the majority of individuals and entities that wouldbe impacted by the water taken out of stream; eliminating restrictions ontransferring water rights and increasing the amount of water that can beobtained without applying for a permit.
More to the point, the fact is that, such, privatization of water, whichattempts to marry the profit motive to something that people need to survive,doesn’t work. The increasing commodification of water on a global scale, forexample, prompted the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and CulturalRight’s, in 2010, to adopt a resolution stating that the “human right todrinking water is fundamental to life and health. Sufficient and safe drinkingwater is a precondition for the realization of human rights.”
SB 26, which was introduced by Gov. Parnell after he noticed that some of therecent in stream flow applications were annoying the resource extractionindustry, therefore, represents the failure of government entities in theUnited States to recognize the human right to water.
Efforts by citizens and tribes to prevent the reduction of stream flows neededfor fish, destruction of habitat and toxic effluent from industrialdevelopment, however, are also protected by the Alaska state Constitutionwhich, under Article VIII, expressly states that water appropriations shall nothave precedence over “general [public] uses for fish and wildlife.”
Due to the political fall-out of the impact of its “No Human Right to Water” ontribal governments and communities in Alaska, therefore, its no wonder that theGovernor wants to keep quiet that, particular aspect of the Bill.
In an effort to defend these rights, conservation and tribal organizations havelined up to tell Senators that it is critical for Alaskans to have a directvoice in decisions affecting our shared resources and to suggested amendmentsto SB 26 and its companion in the House (HB 77) that would, at least, preserveexisting rights to protect water resources.
The good news is that, although the proposed amendments were rejected by boththe Senate and House Resources Committees, opposition to the bills, so far, hasslowed their progress and more hearings may be held on them this week. We stillhave a chance, therefore, to urge the legislature not to strip away the rightsof citizens and tribes to keep water in our streams for healthy fish and ask itto reject any legislation that ignores Constitutional and other rights for themajority of Alaskans who depend on water resources for health and welfare.

Opposition to SB 26 l:
There was also a  LtE in the Anchorage Press

Hal Shepherd, Director
Center for Water Advocacy
P.O. Box 2903
Seward, AK 99664