Ketchikan worried about timber sale

Mayor seeks assurance that proposal won't affect the city's drinking water

Posted: Sunday, June 20, 2004

KETCHIKAN - The mayor of Ketchikan is seeking assurance that a proposed timber sale won't affect city drinking water.

He's also concerned that the Alaska Mental Health Trust's proposed sale of 10 million board feet of timber does not contemplate domestic manufacturing of the wood.

Steve Planchon, executive director of the trust's land office, said a request for proposals on the sales closes in mid-July. The office will have more specific information about what the harvest will look like once it receives the proposals and awards a bid, he said.

"At that point in time, we will have a better understanding, based on the offer, of what the timber buyer has decided is the most effective way to harvest," Planchon said.

Harvest in Ketchikan could start this year under a two-year contract, he said. It's possible some of the timber would be selectively logged by helicopter.

The sales are worth roughly $2.5 million. The trust is expecting at least two logging companies to make offers, Planchon said.

Ketchikan Mayor Bob Weinstein sent a letter to the trust's land office this week expressing concern that the sale area could affect Deer Mountain in downtown Ketchikan, residential neighborhoods in Bear Valley and the city's source of drinking water at Ketchikan Lakes.

He also wants the trust to look at whether a local processing requirement might be of mutual benefit to the trust and the local economy.

Weinstein is asking the trust's land office to have a public meeting in Ketchikan on the issue.

"I think they need to tell the community what their plans are before the fact, not after the fact," Weinstein said.

Planchon said his office had preliminary meetings with the Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Cape Fox Corp., members of the environmental community and others. Trust officials will return to Ketchikan to talk about the sale once a buyer has been selected.

"We want to be very upfront with people and let people know what to expect so there are no surprises," Planchon said. "So if there are helicopters flying overhead, they will know when it would occur and when it would stop, if it happens."

The sale area includes 1,800 acres at the Signal Mountain-Minerva Mountain area, including land around Ward Cove and in Bear Valley.

The trust has another 3,490 acres on Gravina Island. The sales likely won't cover the full acreage.

Money from trust timber sales supports statewide mental health programs, and the land office is required to get the maximum value from its land. A recent trust timber sale near Thorne Bay was largely exported.

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