In this case it’s Middle Creek, a small tributary of the Chuitna River 45 miles west of Anchorage. It’s a spawning tributary for Pacific Salmon, home to dolly varden and rainbow trout. And if energy companies have their way, what happens to Middle Creek will guide Alaskan land policy for decades.

Proposed is an open-pit coal mine with a 30 square mile footprint, discharging 7.4 million gallons of wastewater- laced with coal fines, metals, and sediment- each day. The project is the first of its kind designed to obliterate eleven miles of native fish habitat, setting a precedent for greenlighting industries which directly, negatively impact Alaska’s ecology. Given the current political climate it’s fascinating not a single ounce of this coal is needed for power generation in Alaska, and the mine’s backers have identified markets in Asia for their product.

The mine would operate 25 years, with no assurance reclamation would recover the site to more than a fraction of its pre-disturbance functionality. If you’re curious to learn more about the project, check out the video Chuitna Coal.

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