Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell has certified an initiative that would prohibit mixing zones in water used by salmon and resident fish, setting the stage for the proposal to go before Alaska voters.
Certification allows the initiative sponsors to gather signatures required to place a measure on the ballot.
Parnell’s decision follows a Nov. 8 Alaska Department of Law legal opinion that concluded that the proposal complied with Alaska laws.
Attorney General Talis J. Colberg said the initiative would prohibit mixing zones in water used by salmon and resident fish for spawning, rearing and migration. A mixing zone is an area in a body of water into which liquid wastes may be discharged and exceed water quality standards. It allows wastes to be diluted enough to meet those standards when they exit the area.
The proposal also provides exceptions to the prohibition against mixing zones for certain users including some placer mines, shore-based seafood processors and municipalities that process less than 1 million gallons of water a day.
Colberg said the initiative’s language is broader in geographic scope than current law, but the exceptions it allows could result in it being interpreted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as providing fewer protections than current regulations. EPA must approve all state regulations governing water quality standards. The federal agency conceivably could decline to sign off on the measure, he added.
The Alaska Division of Elections is preparing petition booklets for the sponsors of the initiative, who will need to collect at least 23,831 valid signatures from qualified voters in 30 election districts in order for the proposed bill to be placed on the ballot.