Your Public comments are needed TODAY!
The State is considering opening 1.5 million acres of state-owned land for oil and gas exploration under a State program designed to encourage prospecting in less-explored regions of the state. The Department of Natural Resources, Division of Oil and Gas is requesting comments on exploration for the proposal in the Susitna Valley to gauge public interest in exploratory permitting. If granted, the exclusive license would be good valid for ten years.
Comments are due at 5:00 pm, June 23, 2017
The proposed lease area extends north to Trapper Creek, west to past Skwentna, east to Willow. Part of the area is within the Talkeetna and Sunshine areas east of the Spur Road. Both the Yentna, Susitna and Deshka rivers are in the area.
The Susitna River Coalition is opposed to this development because of the potential threats to the surrounding habitat and waterways that provide $200 million dollars annually through tourism and recreation in the Susitna Watershed. Our members and our communities are dependent on the robust salmon runs and healthy habitat that support our livelihoods, provide food for our families and nurture our communities.
Read the Notice of Intent to Evaluate Oil and Gas Exploration HERE
Additionally, development in this area does not align with current management plans for the region. Large areas of the state legislatively designated Recreation Rivers of the Deshka River (Kroto and Moose Creeks), Lake Creek, Talachulitna River, and Alexander Creek that are included within this solicitation area. These waterways are included in the Susitna Basin Recreational Rivers Management Plan, which outlines how the Department of Natural Resources will manage state lands and waters along these designated rivers.
The proposed development area includes four management units that include 30 public use sites and ten special management areas managed under the Susitna Basin Recreation Rivers Plan. There are currently State reserved in-stream flow water reservations for habitat, water quality, and recreation uses that are established for each unit. These waterways, their corridors, and adjacent areas have the following attributes:
· Extremely valuable to the region’s economy and the environment. Transportation and river-based recreation are a major source of local income.
· Heavily used by the state and out of state public for fishing, floating, boating, hunting, camping, and transportation.
· Anadromous fish streams support five salmon species and resident fish and are major contributors to the Cook Inlet commercial salmon fishery.
· Essential riparian habitat for the mammalian population including fall and winter moose range and black and brown bear concentrations during summer and fall fish runs.
The Recreation Rivers Plan states that the goals of all subsurface resources are to minimize surface disturbance, water quality degradation, recreational use impairment and conflict. (pg. 2-50) There is to be zero discharge of wastewater into rivers or tributaries from mining. The management guidelines for oil and gas require that onshore facilities other than roads, docks, or pipeline crossings are prohibited within 500 feet of all fish bearing streams. On the actual recreation rivers, settings are not permitted within a one-half mile of the banks of the main stems, and that pipeline crossings are to be perpendicular or near perpendicular.
The majority of the waters in this area share many of the same characteristics; they are all:
1. High public use waters.
2. Maintain high-quality fishing, hunting, and camping opportunities in relatively remote, scenic, undeveloped settings.
3. Provide high levels of sport fishing and hunting including spring bear hunting.
4. Prime riparian habitat that is critical to winter moose survival. Moose use the river for travel as the upland coniferous forests provide thermal cover and shallower snow depths.
5. Critical areas for salmon spawning, eagles nests, trumpeter swan nests, moose habitats, and high bear concentrations.
6. Provide extensive winter travel including a section of the Iditarod Historic Trail.
7. Extensive contiguous and non-contiguous wetlands, with a range of 10% to 90% on many corridors.
8. Includes many private parcels with seasonal and full-time cabins and lodges.
Goals of Management of the Recreation Rivers Plan
1. High priority to maintain the Public Use Sites.
2. Maintaining an essentially unmodified natural environment as a management focus.
3. Provide and enhance recreation, fish, and wildlife habitat, the primitive quality of the area and accommodate private property use.
4. New development on state lands in the middle Talachulitna area should be minimized.
5. In the Alexander Lake area, the development of, or activities on, wetlands that would result in significant damage should be avoided or minimized.