Six Southeast Alaska groups have gone to court to block a permit authorizing Klukwan Inc. to conduct aerial herbicide spraying on Long Island this summer.
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Officials from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation "failed to take a hard look at the science," said Buck Lindekugel, conservation director for the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, part of the coalition that filed the appeal to the state's decision to grant the permit.
"Spraying a cocktail of chemicals on Long Island will not protect the people and resources of Long Island," he said.
A trust set up by the Haines-area Native corporation Klukwan Inc. received the permit to spray herbicides on salmonberry and alder by helicopter this summer on 1,965 acres of Long Island, south of Hydaburg.
The coalition opposing it has "every right to appeal" the decision, said DEC public information officer Lynda Giguere. But she said agency officials expect the decision to stand.
"It is the product of thorough agency analysis and extensive review and hearings," she said.
"This permit has been in the works for years," she said, adding that the state attached more regulations to the permit this spring.
According to Lindekugel, the number of groups raising legitimate concerns about the program's effects has steadily increased since Klukwan Inc.'s initial permit application in 2000.
Lindekugel said the appeal filed in Juneau Superior Court was the only avenue left after the state in May denied an appeal requesting a new hearing and review of the permit. Joining SEACC in the appeal are the city of Hydaburg, the Organized Village of Kake, the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, the Alaska Community Action on Toxins and the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.
"The community here relies on hunting and gathering resources to supplement their income," said Adrian LeCornu of the Hydaburg Cooperative Association. He said he worries about the chemicals drifting, and if spraying raises any question about the health and safety in nearby areas, the permit shouldn't be granted, he said.
"DEC has selectively ignored credible, peer-reviewed scientific evidence that these chemicals are harmful to people's health and that the children are particularly vulnerable," Pamela Miller, executive director of Anchorage-based Alaska Community Action on Toxins, said in a news release issued by SEACC on Tuesday. "They are serving the interests of the corporation and not fulfilling their mandate to protect public health."
"There are safe, viable options to spraying pesticides, like mechanical thinning," LeCornu said. "But Klukwan Inc. and DEC refuse to hear our voices."
After getting state approval for the permit in March, Klukwan Inc. President Tom Crandall told the Empire that herbicides have been used in Alaska for many years. He did not immediately return a message left on his cell phone Tuesday.
Tony Carroll can be reached at email@example.com.