Alaska Digest

staff and Wire reports

Posted: Tuesday, June 01, 2004

DEC grants log storage permit at Ward Cove

KETCHIKAN - The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has issued a permit authorizing the Ketchikan Gateway Borough to store and move logs in Ward Cove.

The permit allows the borough to discharge bark and wood debris into to the cove, with restrictions and monitoring, through 2009.

Borough Manager Roy Eckert said the authorization will help borough efforts to reopen the former Gateway Forest Products veneer mill at Ward Cove. The borough purchased the mill in 2002 after Gateway went bankrupt.

A Southeast environmental group said issuing the permit was premature. Questions linger about how log storage will affect the natural recovery of Ward Cove, said Buck Lindekugel, conservation director and staff attorney with the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.

"They should be considering how they're going to develop a cleanup plan before reducing water quality as they've done in this permit," Lindekugel said.

The state permit allows the borough to store 40 million board feet of floating, bundled logs in Ward Cove for the veneer plant, with another 20 million board feet of temporary storage for ship loading. The permit can be appealed.

The borough still needs authorization from the federal Environmental Protection Agency to use the full area outlined in the state permit. For now, the borough can use 18 acres for log storage near the veneer mill that is common to its federal and state permits, according to the DEC.

Ward Cove has been listed as an impaired water body since 1990, and is an EPA superfund site. The cove was home to Ketchikan Pulp Co. from 1954 to 1997 and a Wards Cove Packing salmon cannery from 1912 to 2002.

Pipeline co. considers changes at Valdez

ANCHORAGE - The Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. is considering reconfiguring the Valdez Marine Terminal, including a reduction of the number of storage tanks used.

The proposed changes by the owners of the trans-Alaska pipeline is due to the reduced amount of oil moving through the pipeline and new technology not available when the terminal was built in the 1970s.

Earlier this year, Alyeska approved a $250 million pipeline reconfiguration project, which is focused on upgrading pump stations.

The goal of the terminal reconfiguration and the pipeline reconfiguration are the same: "reducing the cost of moving oil off the North Slope," said terminal manager Rod Hanson.

Otter population up in Siberia, down in Alaska

ANCHORAGE - The Aleutian Islands' sea otter population has plummeted in recent years, but the marine mammals seem to be flourishing across the Bering Sea in Russia's Commander Islands.

A team of biologists from the Alaska SeaLife Center and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found scores of the furry creatures when they visited the Commander Islands in March. The sea otters were so unafraid that they could be dipnetted or even snatched by the tail.

"If you tried that in Alaska, you'd be in the emergency room," said federal sea otter biologist Angela Doroff.

Just across the sea, at the tip of Alaska's Aleutian Chain, the number of otters counted at Attu Island has plunged nearly 80 percent, from 606 in 2000 to 132 last year.

By closely monitoring otters in the Commanders, where an isolated Russian population thrives, scientists believe they may find clues into what has gone wrong with otters between Attu and Kodiak, said Don Calkins, acting sea otter biologist at the SeaLife Center in Seward.

The number of sea otters foraging from Kodiak out to the Aleutians has dropped 56 percent to 68 percent since the mid-1980s.

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