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Committee Background, Composition, Objectives and Responsibilities
The newly formed Resource Policy and Environmental Concerns Committee is up and running!! Check out our updated webpage to learn about the committee’s function, and to see which environmental issues the Western Division (Division) has taken on across the past several years. The committee is currently working on several projects, including developing the most effective and efficient process to utilize when addressing environmental issues of concern, and populating the new webpage with historic Division and Chapter responses to specific environmental concerns. If you have additional thoughts, comments, or questions, please contact one of the RPECC Chairs: Lori Martin ([email protected]) or Dave Weedman ([email protected]).
The Resource Policy and Environmental Concerns Committee (RPECC) was recently created as a result of combining two previous WDAFS (Division) committees, the Environmental Concerns and Policy Review committees. This effort was initiated to improve communication, effectiveness, and efficiency within and between the Division and Chapters, when addressing environmental issues and policies that may influence fisheries and aquatic ecosystems, primarily within the Division, but also nationally and even globally.
The composition of the RPECC, when feasible, will include at least one member of each Chapter, preferably those concurrently serving as Chairperson of the Chapter’s comparable RPECC. The RPECC will include a Chairperson, who is appointed by the Division President, and at least two other Division members (including the Past President). The Chairperson will also serve on the Society Resolutions Committee as an ex officio member. The diversified structure of the RPECC will facilitate the accomplishment of the committee’s objectives and responsibilities.
The RPECC will work toward accomplishing the mission of the AFS (Society) and Division by “advancing sound science and disseminating science-based fisheries information for the global protection, conservation, and sustainability of fishery resources and aquatic ecosystems.” The RPECC will rely primarily on Division and Chapter members in addition to others, to: 1) assist in screening potential environmental issues and policies that may be relevant for action, and 2) develop initial language for the RPECC review and recommendation to the Division’s Executive Committee. This information exchange will facilitate awareness, and encourage active participation within the Division membership.
The RPECC will:
- seek and identify actions, issues, and policies that may be detrimental or beneficial to aquatic resources within the Division by providing a forum for the exchange of information;
- serve as council to the Division by reviewing and researching these concerns in a timely manner to determine if a response from the Division is desired;
- if a response is warranted, ascertain the target audience and appropriate approach in accordance with Society and Division advocacy procedures;
- recommend a suitable response to the Division’s Executive Committee;
- in collaboration with the respective subject matter experts, complete a technical review by developing an accurate, biologically sound, and scientifically defensible response; and
- communicate the Division’s action by disseminating information to the Division’s membership and external publics.
The RPECC will also address requests when the Division’s position on such matters is solicited by the Society, members of the Division and Chapters, organizations, or agencies. In these situations, requests for Division action will be submitted to the RPECC Co-Chairs with supporting and sufficient documentation. The RPECC Co-Chairs will judiciously refer the requests for action to the RPECC for review.
Resource Policy and Environmental Concerns Addressed
Proposed Susitna-Watana Hydropower Project, FERC Project P-14241, Alaska:
The Division submitted a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requesting this agency, in addition to the Alaska Legislature, consider the comprehensive and cumulative impacts the proposed hydropower project will create for the fishery resources and aquatic ecosystems of the Susitna River Basin. The Division also recommended that carefully designed, robust, and statistically defensible sampling be conducted and critically reviewed by subject matter experts, should further studies be completed prior to project approval. Following submission of this letter, the Division received correspondence from a concerned Division member, responding to the Division’s letter to FERC. The Division addressed these matters in a follow-up letter to the Division member.
Project Status (as of December, 2015): FERC Decision: Letter order granting Alaska Energy Authority’s request for additional time, and requiring AEA to schedule the Initial Study Report meetings (ISR). The Review meetings for the ISR will be held in late March (21-25), with final comments required by June. As requested by the Alaska Chapter of AFS, Western Division will not review the ISR since fisheries and hydrologists experts within the state of Alaska and members of the Alaska AFS Chapter will be working on this review.
Reservation of Water Applications within Middle Creek, Chuitna River watershed, Alaska:
The Division submitted a letter to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources requesting this agency review the importance of an instream flow reservation for fish and habitat protection for all five fish species of wild Pacific salmon for Middle Creek, of the Chuitna River watershed in Southcentral Alaska.
Project Status (as of December, 2015): In October 2015, the Division of Mining, Land and Water made a decision on the three water reservation applications received by the Chuitna Citizens Coalition. The three applications for instream flow reservations for Middle Creek include the lower section of Middle Creek and two upper segments located within 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.
Draft Senate Bill Hydropower Improvement Act (S. 1236) and Draft House Bill Hydropower Regulatory Modernization Acts:
The Division and AFS developed position statements opposing portions of both draft acts related to the hydropower evaluation and licensing processes, indicating the proposed language does not maintain sound scientific management of economically and culturally valuable fisheries resources. Letters from the AFS (House, Senate) and Division were submitted to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Project Status (as of December, 2015): Efforts from all organizations did pay off as Senator Cantwell passed an amendment on Section 4(e) and Section 18 language in the Energy Policy Modernization Act. This was a significant improvement to the original draft bill.
Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell Application for Environmental Assessment Certificate (Seabridge Gold 2013; EIS), the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (2014) Study Report (EA), and the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office (2014) Assessment Report (EA) Regarding the Proposed Mining District in the Headwaters of the Stikine, Taku, and Unruk rivers, British Columbia/Alaska border region:
With the support of the Division, the AFS submitted comments to the International Joint Commission requesting the agency review the potential negative effects this proposed mining development is likely to have on the headwaters of the Stikine, Taku, and Unruk rivers of the British Columbia/Alaska border region. The government of British Columbia responded to the AFS comment letter, indicating in this correspondence that the Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell Environmental Assessment Certificate was issued.
Project Status (as of December, 2015): Unknown
Magnuson Stevens Act:
Earth Justice Amicus Brief:
The case concerns logging roads and storm water regulation under the Clean Water Act. Earthjustice will be representing several fisheries biologists in an amicus brief to the Supreme Court to explain the effects of logging road runoff on streams and aquatic ecosystems and to urge regulation of this runoff under a Clean Water Act permit system. The Division did sign off on this Amicus Brief (insert link)(document attached)