I read, with some dismay, the Sunday Empire editorial concerning Gastineau Channel dredging. Most of us outside the newspaper industry are unsure who exactly is writing this column. The writer/editor seems to take exception to the fact that commercial fishing boats (among many others) would benefit from an open channel to Auke Bay. Commercial fishing is one of Juneau's (and Alaska's) main industries. I believe it employs more of us working class people than any other occupation. Residents of Juneau are often confused by the attitude of other towns that appear to believe that Juneau is not a part of Southeast Alaska. This belittling of our desperately needed waterway is a prime example. There is no other large town in Southeast Alaska that would consider letting the channel dry up. Ketchikan, Petersburg, Sitka or Wrangell would all be debating the correct method of funding and the least damaging method to the environment.
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The "tiny life forms" mentioned in the editorial would certainly be replaced by other tiny life forms living in the stone bulkheads that I proposed in my earlier published letter. The stone bulkheads running the length of the channel would relieve most of the need for future dredging. There would be no million dollar yearly expense. Gastineau Channel as the current generation knows it is doomed by the rising glacial rebound effect. In Juneau's history the channel has gotten progressively shallower and usage has decreased. It has changed from the mud and gravel "Bar" to the grass flats that we have now. In my lifetime I have watched trees start growing on the flats. This will continue until there is no grass left.
The channel would be more than a "nice" or "convenient" alternative to the incredibly dangerous passage around Douglas Island. It would be a life saver for many and a real boon for Juneau's future. Let us be the Alaska generation that still had enough common sense to accomplish something useful.
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