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River data gathered as safeguard against mining
Jul 29   

Editors Note Expands with details, comment from village mayor

NOME, Alaska (AP) _ The western Alaska village of Elim has teamed up with a conservation organization to collect data from the Tubutulik River as a safeguard against possible uranium mining.

The Center for Water Advocacy is working with Elim's Tribal Council for the effort that began two years ago about 40 miles upriver from the village, KNOM (http://is.gd/hTJW2t) reported.

The goal is to collect five years of data in Elim's goal of attaining jurisdiction from the state over the water flowing into the community's land. The data collection is underway in response to past interest in a large uranium deposit near Boulder Creek by Triex Minerals Corp., a Canadian mineral exploration company that was looking at the deposit in 2006.

During the 2008 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, students and elders rallied at the Elim checkpoint to protest the idea of uranium mining.

Hal Shepherd, director of the water-advocacy group, and field technician Leigh Takak conducted routine testing at the site last week.

They have been boating up the river almost every month for the past two years to the testing site, where a device pulls temperature and depth recordings every 15 minutes from the bed of the river. Grants from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Norton Sound Economic Development Corp. are funding the fuel and testing equipment for the project.

Water quality is also measured, Shepherd said.

Alaska is among the few states in the nation to allow individuals to bid for water rights to state-owned waterways, in addition to federal, state and local governing agencies. But the application itself is a large undertaking, and the state doesn't hand out these reservations frequently, Elim Mayor Tyler Ivanoff said. Although five years of data is required, the application can be submitted after two years of data collection.

``If we don't get those water rights, then the state or the other mining companies can just use our water and probably pollute our rivers that we've been fishing on since time immemorial,'' Ivanoff said.

The tests use baseline data for the health of the river, Shepherd said. He added that the data will be turned over to the state as part of the application, which is expected to be submitted this fall.

For the next three years, Shepherd will continue making the trip up the river, a challenging 10- to 12-hour journey.

Elim will continue to take precautionary action even if Triex does not pursue a mining operation along the river. The current price of uranium is $30 per pound, less than half of its 2006 trading price.


Information from: KNOM-AM, http://www.knom.org

By The Associated Press, Copyright 2014

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