The proposed Donlin gold mine is going through the permitting process and recently picked up 13 Title 16 permits from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Those permits will allow the company to eliminate one salmon stream and partially erase another.
That has alarmed many people in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, especially since there isn’t a formal public comment process at Fish and Game. A controversial salmon habitat ballot initiative was supposed to fix that, but Alaskans voted it down by a huge margin during the general election earlier this month.
KYUK talked with outgoing commissioner Sam Cotton about Fish and Game’s role in the permitting process for big projects, and how the agency could open it up for more public participation in the future. The following is an interview that has been condensed and edited.