Tier 3 Waters

The federal Clean Water Act allows Alaskan residents to protect waters critical to their communities, cultures, ecosystems, and economies from pollution under a “Tier 3” or “Outstanding National Resource Water” designation.   Having a local waterway designated a Tier 3 Water is an honor.  It means that the waterway is so exceptional, so central to the economy and lifestyle, and so culturally and spiritually significant that everything possible should be done to protect it for all those who depend on it, now and in the future. 


Photo by Michelle Cornelius

There are currently 5 Alaskan waterways nominated for Tier 3: Koktuli River (2009), Yakutat Forelands (2010), Chilkat River | Jilkaat Heeni (2016), Chandalar | Teedriinjik River (2016), Black | Draanjik River (2017).  Although the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) has the authority to review and designate the Tier 3 waters nominated by Alaska Native Tribes and other stakeholders, the state has refused to do so. 

While the state has been denying Alaskans the right to protect critical waters through a Tier 3 process, ADEC has continued to issue permits for dumping waste into our shared waterways – the same waters that we rely on to eat, drink, and live.

House Bill 138 (HB 138) introduced into the Alaska House Resources Committee by Representative Kopp, would make it virtually impossible for residents or groups to protect clean waters by requiring that a nomination first get reviewed and approved by a 7-person committee appointed by the governor. The committee would then make a recommendation to the governor who would then have to send a bill to both branches of the state legislature. Finally, the legislature would have to pass a designation in the form of a law, and in the end, the governor could still decide to veto it.  The decision would be entirely political at every point, rather than science-based, and would make the approval process nearly impossible.  Meanwhile, corporations only have to fill out a 6-page online form, through an administrative process managed by the DEC, to get permission to pollute our waters. 

Corporations should not be granted rights denied to residents.  A Tier 3 designation process to protect waters should be no more onerous than the process to degrade our waters. 

• From SEACC: Tier 3 Factsheet and our suggested talking points for contacting your representative
• From the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation: Tier 3 Factsheet


For further information, please contact SEACC at info@seacc.org or 907-586-6942.

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