My turn: Wrong priorities for Gravina Island

Posted: Thursday, March 01, 2007

As an Alaskan, I am very concerned with the growing number of projects on Gravina Island, within the Tongass National Forest.

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Our government seems more interested in development and the health of the economy rather than the health and vitality of its inhabitants. President Bush and Sen. Lisa Murkowski have said they will not support laws that would harm the economy. This is clear by the way projects are processed.

There are several issues in which revision and maintenance need to be implemented. Some of them include the environment and others involve dollars.

Because money seems to be our decision makers' main motivation, the bottom line is we are misusing valuable fiscal resources by creating roads. For example, the Gravina Access Highway, at $25.7 million and 3.2 miles, will cost $8 million per mile for a gravel road. This huge sum of money could be used in far more valuable ways.

It has been suggested that the Army Corps of Engineers was pressured to permit this bad project, which is no longer needed due to the lack of bridge funding. Nevertheless, the Gravina Access Highway was permitted on Dec. 20. It seems all too common to find agencies pressured to do things that might be environmentally or economically damaging.

So, if for no other reason, I urge Gov. Sarah Palin to terminate the Gravina Access Highway contract for fiscal reasons.

Aside from the monetary reasons, we do have the responsibility of caring for the land that was so kindly given to us to live on. We must, as a conscientious and wise society, take a closer look into the decisions we are making and the effects they will have on the environment and our future.

Though the generations before us had a "bigger box" and more resources to play with, they have left the future looking grim for the next generation. The younger generation has vast environmental concerns because of poor choices made in the past.

I feel it is my responsibility as an Alaskan and an inhabitant of this land to acknowledge these issues. One of my concerns includes the Murkowski-era Bostwick Road. Even though each agency involved with the road (Department of Natural Resources, Department of Transportation, U.S. Forest Service and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough) stated this road will remain open for recreational and other purposes, no permits were ever sought under the Clean Water Act via the Army Corps of Engineers. Corps staff visited the site and were appalled by the conditions and lack of permitting. At least four unpermitted pits are in place. Erosion controls are all but nonexistent. Wetlands have been destroyed by haphazard construction. These are some serious issues that damage a very delicately balanced ecosystem. A chain reaction will affect the beauty of these areas and the quality of life.

For these reasons, I urge the governor to close the state road and end all activity until proper permits are in place, mitigation is performed to curtail damage and erosion controls are in place. These decisions are fundamental to the future health, vitality and beauty of Alaska.

Though today our representative government may have strong beliefs in an overdeveloped infrastructure, it is important to understand the long-term consequences these developments will have on the environment, thus affecting the quality of life of all living things.

• Amy Kay Snider is a student and resident of Ester.

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