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It's been a hard-fought battle of over twenty years. The warriors were getting weary. Still the voices of the people, speaking for the voiceless fish and wildlife of a most extraordinary watershed in Southeast Alaska near Haines, ultimately prevailed.

Just as we were preparing for another round, Alaska Power & Telephone, the utility company with the proposed boondoggle of a hydro-project in the Upper Chilkoot Watershed finally threw in their towel. The sweet message arrived today from FERC and from a rare (dedicated to both the resource and the commenting public) Alaska public official, Monte Miller, FERC's liasion with Alaska Department of Fish & Game for FERC hydro-project proposals in Alaska.

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Here's the image that speaks a bit of what we were fighting for...a spawning sockeye in Bear Creek, a tributary to the portion of the Chilkoot River that is above Chilkoot Lake.

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There's more, so much more that this watershed means to us.  A mere twenty miles long, Chilkoot supports over a million dollars worth of commercial sockeye catch per year for local fishermen. It sustains the traditional lifestyles of a strong and vibrant Tlingit and rural Alaskan subsistence population.  It supports a spring eulachon run that in turn supports birds, sea lions, and people. It supports sockeye, pink, chum, and coho salmon. It supports mountain goats, moose, otters, wolves, coyotes, so many bears, mostly Alaska Coastal brown bears, mink, bald eagles, osprey, ducks, gulls, song birds, dippers, people, tourism, and much, much more.

The project would have required a large dam and road access, power lines, tons of fill hauled into the salmon spawning grounds above Chilkoot Lake that is part of the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve.

Why was industry able to keep this fight going for such a risky project for so long in the presence of such a valuable resource? Politicians were willing to keep throwing money at it. Bureaucrats doing the same old rubber stamping of anything that smells of growth and development. People who take the most valuable things in life for granted and don't imagine that they can actually be jeopardized by a hydro-project wrongly-sized and wrongly-placed.

Why did the fish win this one? A collection of good folks willing to speak out for the resources they value, over, and over, and over, and over again, creating an ever widening circle of voices and involvement for that which matters.

To keep up with the Chilkoot Watershed of Haines, Alaska, feel free to join "Friends of Chilkoot" on Facebook.

Or check in with the Chilkoot Watershed Coaltion website at:

In the meantime, celebrate with us however you wish. A black cloud over one of earth's most special places has, for now, been lifted.

Originally posted to akmk on Fri Jun 14, 2013 at 09:23 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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