My Turn: Is there any refuge from this mission?

Posted: Friday, May 10, 2002

The NOAA facility access road, and the resulting subdivision, will be directly responsible for the sewage effluent disposal on the South Lena Beach if action is not taken. CBJ is proposing to subdivide land adjacent to the NOAA facility access road and sell off 147 properties that will all connect to the South Lena Beach sewer pipe.

CBJ plans to sell off the properties in three phases. Comment, therefore, is limited to each phase at hand. CBJ is being disingenuous, as they send notices only to the South Lena residents for public testimony on April 17, 2002. The residents of Lena have been repeatedly worn down by a process, which, from the beginning, has not addressed their concerns. Citizen comment has resulted in little, if any compromise. This project offers no benefit to existing residents, as access to the new sewer line will not be economically feasible. The CBJ has selectively limited public participation by not sending notice to all Lena residents regarding the phased-in subdivision.

Conflict-of-interest between the government parties is legendary. CBJ must have a review by NOAA for the sewer line. NOAA is the principle benefactor of the project. NOAA has already refused to have the subdivision's sewer effluent hooked up to their sewer system because they want to maintain a pristine environment. One could easily conclude that it is in NOAA's best interest to find a conclusion of minimal impact.

CBJ has spent millions of dollars buying the land from SECON and giving the land to NOAA. The cost of this subdivision alone is enormous. Each property to be developed in the subdivision is estimated to cost $65,000 for water and sewer utilities alone. R&M Engineering has a clause in their contract with CBJ that entitles them to the engineering contract for the subdivision if they engineer the NOAA access road. The NOAA facility, access road and subdivision, therefore, go hand-in-hand. CBJ must seek a variance from itself for the sewer line. It is a complicated, down-the-Lena-Loop-residents-throats project, with a fox guarding the henhouse. Were it any one else trying to sell and develop this land, the city would be falling all over itself promulgating ridiculous requirements, and deploying delay tactics and anything they could think of, including endless plan review, requirements for sidewalks, street lights, green spaces, curbs and gutters. Look at what happened to the former owners before SECON.

The magnitude of having sewage effluent from an additional 147 homes in an environmentally sensitive area poses a problem to the humans, sea lions, killer whales, humpback whales, shorebirds, otters, inter-tidal organisms and fish that inhabit this area. The effect of sewage on these organisms is not known, as little information exists. Certainly, the environment can handle existing sewer lines, but 147 homes worth of treated sewage at one outfall will have a definite detrimental impact and be a threat to the existing marine organisms.

The time has come for NOAA to step up to the plate and be responsible for the waters adjacent to its property and the resultant sewer that is a direct result of the NOAA access road. NOAA has a responsibility to the environment. How can NOAA and its self-proclaimed world-class research facility be authorized to dump sewage onto our beaches? Is there any refuge from CBJ and its mission to develop at any cost?

Ellen Varosi is a resident of Lena Loop.

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