Diminishing returns of development

Letter to the editor

Posted: Sunday, August 01, 2004

Juneau is a unique island in a sea of wilderness. That wilderness is the reason I moved here 42 years ago. That wilderness is the reason I and many others remain here. Berner's Bay is the crown jewel of our surrounding wilderness. Nowhere else in our vicinity can you see extensive braided rivers or runs of spawning herring and eulachon accompanied by the marine mammals that prey upon them. These features plus excellent hiking, hunting, fishing, and boating attract legions of recreationists.

How would the new Kensington mine proposal affect Berners Bay? Lower Slate Lake would be dammed and filled with mine tailings, toxic effluents from the lake could harm Dolly Varden and salmon in Lower Slate Creek, a road and mill would be visible inside the bay, a stretch of new highway would be built with an industrial port at the terminus, daily ferry trips would occur, and the experience of every recreationist would be diminished.

Another point I wish to make is that the mine proposal should not be considered as a separate entity. The mine, the road to Skagway, the road to Cascade Point with its port and the land exchange are all interrelated and should be considered simultaneously.

I close with a statement by A. Starker Leopold which is relevant to the present issue: "It is characteristic of frontier societies, and Alaska still is such, to become so engrossed in the process of development as to fail to look ahead to the point of diminishing returns beyond which more development becomes a social liability rather than an asset."

I submit that the revised Kensington Mine proposal has reached that point, would be a social liability and should be rejected. We should hold Coeur Alaska to the original 1997 proposal which has all operations facing Lynn Canal and would be less damaging to the environment.

Richard Gard


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