From La Conner to Hamilton, local governments oppose mining in Skagit River headwaters

May 23—Government leaders tasked with protecting the health, safety and quality of life of residents living along and relying upon the Skagit River are joining the groundswell of opposition to potential mining in the river's headwaters in British Columbia.

Mining company Imperial Metals applied about two years ago to explore for copper and gold. That application is pending.

This week, the Skagit County Board of Commissioners sent a letter to officials in British Columbia asking for recognition that proposed copper and gold mining could harm human and environmental health downstream.

"Skagit County is the government of general jurisdiction in virtually the entirety of the inhabited Skagit River ecosystem downstream of the proposed application ... The Skagit River flows through our community from one end to the other, providing drinking water for nearly all of our County's 130,450 residents," the May 17 letter states.

Putting that resource at risk would also affect tribal treaty rights to salmon and steelhead, as well as agriculture that relies on irrigation.

"The Skagit River's water quality is of vital importance to us, and we ask that you do not approve any permit that would negatively impact the cleanliness and safety of our community's water supply or in any way interfere with the retum of anadromous species to the Skagit," the letter states.

The Skagit Council of Governments on Wednesday passed a resolution stating that it has "grave concern" about the proposed mining.

Earlier in May, the Skagit Watershed Council, city of Burlington and the towns of La Conner and Hamilton passed similar resolutions asking British Columbia to deny the proposal and permanently protect the land. The property is called the "donut hole" because of its location between two provincial parks.

The Concrete Town Council is set to consider its own resolution Monday against mining in the donut hole, which contains the headwaters of the Skagit River watershed.

"Concrete's quality of life and economy are directly connected to the Skagit River," the draft resolution states of the easternmost municipality in Skagit County.

Environment, conservation and government representatives have been speaking out for two years against the potential for mining and mine-related contamination in the Skagit River headwaters.

The Burlington City Council on May 13 unanimously passed a resolution asking that British Columbia's leaders deny that application "due to the potential and significant risk to the Skagit River watershed, the City's water supply, and the local ecology and economy."

As Anacortes and Sedro-Woolley wrote in similar resolutions passed in April, Burlington highlighted the city's reliance on the river for drinking water. La Conner passed a resolution on May 11 that states "maintaining the quality and quantity of the water supply is of utmost importance to the Town of La Conner, its neighboring municipal and tribal communities, and to the greater Skagit River valley." The Hamilton Town Council passed a similar resolution that same day.

"We decided as a town that we really don't want to see that kind of pollution getting into the river and harming the fish and everything," Hamilton councilmember Travis Patrick said.

Skagit Watershed Council Executive Director Richard Brocksmith said the groundswell of opposition from elected leaders is inspiring. His organization, which helps prioritize and secure grant funding for salmon restoration efforts in the watershed, passed a resolution May 6 and has helped to inform other local entities of the risks.

— Reporter Kimberly Cauvel: 360-416-2199,, Twitter: @Kimberly_SVH,