Resources of Prince of Wales

Posted: Friday, April 04, 2003

Mining, fishing and the timber industry have kept Prince of Wales Islanders busy for more than 100 years. Copper mining was so extensive that there was a smelter at Hadley a dozen years before there was an Anchorage. Gold, silver, zinc and lead abound. Marble deposits were worked in the 1920s. Sealaska marketed limestone a few years ago. Twice since World War II uranium was mined. None of the mineral deposits has been exhausted and only await better infrastructure for marketing.

Alaska's first salmon cannery was built at Klawock in 1878 followed by a dozen canneries around the island early in the 20th Century. Klawock retains a fish hatchery today.

More than a dozen resorts cater to a new class of salmon fishermen, the sportsmen. To speed access to lodges, there is a paved, 5,000-foot runway at Klawock being equipped for instrument landings. Prince of Wales communities formed the Inter-Island Ferry Authority that provides daily service between Ketchikan and the southern end of Prince of Wales. Soon there will be similar service between Wrangell-Petersburg and northern Prince of Wales.

Seven hundred miles of highway on the island - more than the total in the rest of Southeast - access lodges, boat launches, trout streams, clam beds, campgrounds and 10 communities. The state is spending $6.5 million to upgrade the highway between ferry terminals.

The roads are a bonus left by the timber industry, active on the island since a sawmill opened at Craig in 1912. And despite the criticism of the timber industry, hunting and sport fishing are outstanding compared with the rest of Southeast. The timber industry still exists on Prince of Wales with a sawmill at Klawock employing 40.

On completion of the Bradfield Canal Road, a short IFA ferry ride will provide fast access to the Lower 48, boosting the island's resources. Major new visitor attractions include caverns the Forest Service has opened to the public.

Critics might say, "Yeah, but the state operates on an oil economy. All Prince of Wales has is fish oil."

The Wrangell Sentinel, Alaska's oldest continuously published newspaper, printed an interesting item last month in its 75-Years-Ago column:

"Craig, Alaska, Feb. 14, 1928 - An oil discovery was made about 14 miles west of Klawock on the eighth of the month. A small spring of oil was boiling out along the beach at low water. The oil was discovered by an Indian and his wife while digging clams. There are other seepages reported in the same vicinity near Klawock."

Seismic exploration was conducted 30 years ago in British Columbia waters across Dixon Entrance from the southern end of Prince of Wales Island. Then about the time the Sentinel was reprinting the 75-year-old item, Premier Gordon Campbell said in a speech that by 2010 British Columbia could have "an offshore oil and gas industry that is up and running, environmentally sound and booming with job creation."

He cited estimates from the Geological Survey of Canada suggesting the entire coast contains close to 10 billion barrels of oil and 26 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

What is the Anchorage Daily News attempting to accomplish by implying March 11, 14, 17 and 23 that Gov. Frank Murkowski is a liar? Its bias carried over to its news columns on March 16 when it headlined a story: "Proposed cuts met by mass hostility."

The story reported that 100 people showed up to tell Anchorage legislators how unhappy they were with Murkowski's proposed state budget cuts. But many left before the meeting ended, including legislators.

"Mass hostility" when 100 people show in a town of 270,000? That leaves a lot of satisfied people in Anchorage, except at 1001 Northway Drive.

Williams is retired publisher of the Ketchikan Daily News.

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