Save Berners Bay from corporate interests

Letter to the editor

Posted: Sunday, February 22, 2004

Berners Bay, Juneau's backyard, crown jewel, is under siege by Outside corporate mining interests and its partners in government. Coeur Alaska Inc., an Idaho-based transnational corporation, seeks to dump its tailings into Lower Slate Lake as part of the Kensington mining project proposal. In so doing, it will violate the state's water quality standards and anti-degradation policy, as well as the federal Clean Water Act.

The Berners Bay/Lynn Canal ecosystem is a complex and fragile biodiversity hotspot, supporting eulachon and herring. This is the food base for other species, such as salmon, bald eagles, migratory waterfowl, Thayer's gulls, harbor seals, and Steller sea lions.

The proposed dumping of waste into Slate Lake is but a piece of a larger and orchestrated assault on Berners Bay, which includes other proposed developments, such as the Juneau Access Road and the Cape Fox land exchange. These ecological values are an economic and social asset to Juneau, providing for sport and commercial fisheries, subsistence, recreation and tourism, and simply a place to "get away," which could and should be managed in perpetuity.

Reasonable people might ask, huh? How could government agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency possibly entertain such proposals? Is this even legal? Does not their face turn red? Are they not supposed to represent the public interest? Does the Forest Service not have enough backbone or expertise to critically examine the combined development effects of these proposals on Berners Bay? Will the EPA defend the Clean Water Act? Good questions.

Hmmm ... something's fishy here. Berners Bay is the peoples' bay, not some outside, corporate behemoth with a track record of poor public citizenship and shifting its environmental pollution costs to unsuspecting and uninformed taxpayers and citizens.

Just say "no, thank you" to this sure-to-be pathetic public involvement show. Please come together as a civitas to defend the people's bay and send this publicly funded dog-and-pony show and roadside packing. Educate your public servants on the difference between the chimera of public involvement versus civitas as a body of people constituting a politically organized community. Demand that these public agencies take a hard look at all of the combined and interrelated issues pertaining to the development of Berners Bay.

The Forest Service will hold a public meeting on the proposed Kensington mine from 4-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 24, at Centennial Hall. The civitas shall gather at 5:15 p.m. in the lobby of Centennial Hall.

Robert Silverman


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