My Turn: Redfern proposal would boost Southeast economy

Posted: Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I am writing to voice my support for Redfern Resources' proposed barging operations. There are several reasons that motivate me to back this project.

As a business owner located in Ketchikan, I have concerns about the economic development of Southeast in the coming years. As the timber industry declines, we need other ways to strengthen the economy. Redfern's plan for barging its supplies has the potential to have a very positive impact on the economies of Juneau, Ketchikan and the entire region of Southeast.

The benefits of this project to the surrounding communities would include jobs for Alaska residents, an increase in retail sales of groceries and other necessities, additional work for existing businesses in different contracting industries, air and ferry transportation, etc.

My business has done tug and barge marine transport contracting for Redfern in the past year. In my dealings with the company, they have proven to be a reputable firm that conducts business in a professional and responsible manner. Redfern appears to be a company committed to managing their operations with a high degree of respect for the environment and those they work with. They have gone the extra mile to ensure that they have a comprehensive operations plan that adheres to strict environmental standards.

I understand that in order for this column to be considered as support, it must demonstrate how Redfern meets the permit requirements. From my understanding, there are two standards in particular that pertain to this project, the Habitats Standard at 11AAC112.300, and the Transportation Routes and Facilities Standard at 11AAC 112.280.

It appears that Redfern's operations meet these standards given that the vessels they are planning to use are designed to have a shallow draft and low ground pressure, and that they will be traveling in the deepest part of the river channel and would avoid any channelization effects.

Redfern's operations specifically state that no dredging or other in-stream works would be conducted and have outlined a route and procedure for transitioning over the tidal flats. The operations also indicated that ice breaking would be avoided so they can use the ice as a road for their proposed equipment. Also, Redfern has committed to having an environmental monitor on board, which supports my statement above of their commitment to respecting the environment.

Redfern also has indicated that its barges would travel slowly, both upstream and downstream. By doing so, a small amount of wake would be produced, and since the tug would travel in the deepest part of the channel wake, induced bank erosion would be minimal.

As for spawning areas, Redfern has identified the area around Canyon Island as a fish spawning area, and their operations do outline plans for avoiding potential disturbances. Their operations around this area have been identified in terms of changes during certain seasons.

To summarize, this project has the potential to have a favorable effect on both local and regional communities, and the larger region of Southeast in the upcoming years.

Redfern should be granted its final permits in a timely manner so the project can get underway and the benefits to surrounding areas can start to be realized. I hope readers will consider that all of the above demonstrate that Redfern's proposed barging activities comply with the permit regulations.

• Rick Olson is owner of Olson Marine Inc. in Ketchikan.

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