Critics want in on overbarge meeting

Posted: Friday, January 25, 2008

As Alaskans, we rely on the state to help ensure that our resources and economic interests are managed in a way that benefits us.

The Taku River is a major economic, recreational and cultural resource for Juneau, and if managed properly, it will continue to provide Juneau with fishing jobs, fish and game for the table and other benefits year after year. That is why fishermen, Taku property owners and others are calling on the Department of Natural Resources and Gov. Sarah Palin's administration to address concerns about Canadian mining company Redcorp Ventures' plan to use a hovercraft-like barge and amphitrac tug on the Taku River. The importance of the Taku River is also the fundamental reason why I consider Redcorp's meddling in the public process so egregious.

Natural Resources has tried to have an open and transparent public process, but insufficient data from Redcorp (a junior company that has never operated a mine) and some bad planning has led to a chaotic situation where the public meeting has been delayed twice. The new date for the public meeting is Feb. 4 from 7-9:30 p.m. at Centennial Hall. Public comments are due to Natural Resources by Feb. 21.

It appears that Redcorp has made what I would call a dishonest effort to stifle public comment and concern on this issue. My organization and several other local concerned citizens groups talked with Natural Resources and created plans for hosting a room during the public meeting to help raise awareness on the issue, provide a source of information about local groups' concerns and draw attendance to Natural Resources' meeting. This plan was all set up and approved by Natural Resources. But then the meeting date abruptly changed to Feb. 4 and Redcorp took advantage of this situation and booked up every room and the lobby of Centennial Hall during that date, effectively shutting out our groups' involvement. Natural Resources and Centennial Hall even asked Redcorp to relinquish one of the rooms to us, but the company refused.

What is Redcorp afraid of or hoping to hide? Redcorp's tactics can't hide the fact that its proposal is getting a highly skeptical and critical reaction from Juneau fishermen, cabin owners and other groups and individuals.

Underhanded tactics like this may work in Canada, but this is Alaska, and the Taku River is too important to take risks with.

Chris Zimmer

U.S. coordinator, Rivers Without Borders


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