A top state regulator has pulled Klukwan Inc.'s controversial permit to spray herbicides over Long Island in southern Southeast Alaska this summer, pending review by an administrative judge.
Twenty-eight groups and individuals, including Tlingit tribes, Southeast Alaska towns, fishing organizations, physicians and environmentalists, protested the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation's decision this spring to grant the herbicide permit.
Among their charges, the appellants accused the state of violating its own rules for public notice before it issued the permit, which would allow the Alaska Native corporation to spray two herbicides on 2,000 acres to control the growth of salmonberry and red alder and accelerate timber regrowth.
State environmental regulators acknowledged last week at least some of the issues - including alleged public notice violations - raised by the appellants deserved a hearing.
"Having reviewed the request, I agree with that concession by DEC staff," said DEC Commissioner Kurt Fredriksson, in Thursday's decision to allow a hearing on the permit.
He deferred the case to Judge Terry Thurbon in the state Office of Administrative Appeals, who has not yet assigned a hearing date.
Klukwan Inc.'s president, Tom Crandall, declined to comment on the state's decision, and he also declined to state his next step regarding the contested permit.
Long Island is off the southwestern coast of Prince of Wales Island, west of Ketchikan.
The permit is vigorously opposed by the town of Hydaburg, which is near the area that would be sprayed.
"To a certain degree, (the permit) is now a political issue," said Buck Lindekugel, an attorney for the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, which is spearheading the appeal.
The Department of Conservation, while conceding to some of the appellants' concerns, still feel that spraying the herbicides, Accord and Arsenal, and the surfactant Competitor, will not hurt human health or the environment.
"We reviewed over 100 studies and took over a year to look at the science," said Kim Strickland, the state's pesticide program manager.
Lindekugel said he has serious concerns about the scientific models used by the state to review the environmental effects of the herbicides.
"If you look at who made these models - it's industry. We questioned whether industry models were appropriate to use," Lindekugel said.
Elizabeth Bluemink can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.