Parks are Alaska's real gold mines

Letter to the editor

Posted: Thursday, July 07, 2005

A road into Berners Bay is an old, outdated, dead-end idea. According to an article in the April 24 Juneau Empire, "25 years later, conservation act drives boom," conservation of Alaska lands in parks and preserves has been an economic bonanza for the state. The article details the economic benefits enjoyed by the community of Seward due to Kenai Fjords National Park, a $52 million a year business.

Unlike the proposed Kensington Mine, Kenai Fjords National Park did not require a dead-end road (paid for by tax dollars). The park also did not operate for 10 or 15 years, close down and leave behind an environmental mess to be cleaned up by the state. Over the planned life of the mine, the Kensington will dump more than 4 million tons of mining waste into Lower Slate Lake, this toxic slurry will have to be held in check by a dam and will likely be left for the state to monitor for many years.

When the Kensington Mine closes down after 10 or 15 years of operation, it will leave behind a legacy of environmental degradation. The proposed Kensington Mine's industrial facilities will sprawl across the bay, two port facilities will handle barges carrying supplies, fuel containers, and thousands of tons of ore. Ferries will shuttle employees back and forth across the bay up to five times daily.

This industrial boat and barge traffic will likely disturb the bay's spectacular marine life, including Steller sea lions and whales. The fuel spills and impacts from the construction of docks will harm the bay's rich eulachon and herring schools. The bay's rich fisheries and marine life will continue to suffer even after the mine is closed down.

Instead of living in the past and promoting a dead-end road into Berners Bay for the benefit of a socially irresponsible, multinational mining company with terrible environmental and labor records, we should be looking to the future and promoting the protection of Berners Bay. Juneau's elected officials should be taking a leadership role and planning for the future, calling for the creation of a state marine park at Berners Bay, not a dead-end mining road.

Mike Turek


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