ANCHORAGE– Building on the cooperative relationship between Alaska and British Columbia, Alaska Lt. Governor Byron Mallott and British Columbia Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett and British Columbia Minister of Environment Mary Polak today signed a Statement of Cooperation on the Protection of Transboundary Waters (SoC).
The SoC implements Section 2 of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), originally signed between British Columbia and Alaska in November 2015, which recognized and formalized the mutual commitment of Alaska and British Columbia to protect and enhance the shared environment, including trans-boundary rivers, watersheds and fisheries, for the benefit of both jurisdictions. Alaska Tribes, Southeast Alaska municipalities, citizens and environmental groups were able to review the drafts and make suggestions over the course of the past year. The SoC seeks to strengthen collaboration and communication among tribes, BC First Nations and the full range of stakeholders.
“I am pleased that we were able to move forward with this measure,” said Lt. Gov. Mallott. “It is another step in Alaska’s commitment to open and transparent collaboration with our Canadian neighbors on the vital issue of safeguarding our precious transboundary watersheds that feed our people and nourish our cultures.”
Implementation of the SoC will be overseen by a bilateral working group, consisting of the commissioners of the Alaska Departments of Environmental Conservation, Fish and Game and Natural Resources and the deputy ministers of the British Columbia Ministries of Energy and Mines and Environment. The working group will establish and oversee a Technical Working Group on water monitoring. The working group will identify a reliable and accurate process for the collection, summary and distribution of baseline, regional and project-specific water quality data; look for opportunities to build on and enhance participation in environmental assessments and permitting relating to mines and development; and, identify and share reports on mine discharges, operations and closure.
In addition, the bilateral working group will build on collaboration between Alaska and British Columbia that is already taking place in the transboundary region, and continue to facilitate constructive dialog and the cooperative and mutually beneficial relations it engenders.
“British Columbia and Alaska have a long history of working together and supporting each other, as good neighbors do,” said Minster Bill Bennett today. “This Statement of Cooperation between British Columbia and Alaska ensures we are working together effectively on trans-boundary water quality, environmental assessments and permitting for mine projects, and reporting on mine discharges, operations and closure.”
“I’m pleased to see the follow-through on this issue since I signed the original MOU last year with Premier Christy Clark,” Gov. Bill Walker stated. “I look forward to Alaska’s transboundary team’s continued emphasis on good science and robust public communication on this issue.”
“This agreement will improve cooperation between BC and Alaska, allowing us to better manage, protect and enhance our shared environment for generations to come,” said the BC Minister of Environment Mary Polak.
The SoC was signed via videoconference from the Anchorage Governor’s Office East conference room and BC governmental offices in Vancouver. Click here to view the document online.