Ketchikan pet project

Posted: Monday, August 18, 2003

Ward Cove, Alaska, near Ketchikan, is the site of the former Ketchikan Pulp Company. It is geographically one of the best deep water, naturally protected bodies of water on the west coast of North America. It has infrastructure there, left over from the KPC era and the present veneer mill site. Ward Cove is being used by an ecotourism company that carries tourists through Ward Cove and beyond, mooring its vessels there.

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough, owner of the Ward Cove property, has informed all present and potential users of Ward Cove they can make no long-term commitments for any property in Ward Cove because the area is the subject of the Maritime Feasibility Study and the Ward Cove Feasibility Study.

Until these studies determine the best uses for Ward Cove, all economic development is put on hold - all development except their own pet project, the veneer mill. The KGB has moved ahead with letters of eviction on two local business concerns in Ward Cove - on the one hand, applying for a "log rafts in the water storage permit." This brings to mind two questions:

1. Shouldn't the KGB wait to see the results of the two independent feasibility studies to determine if the veneer mill is even feasible, given the world market, timber supply woes and past records of success? And even if it is feasible, is Ward Cove the best location to take a majority of the harbor space and dump logs in the water?

2. Despite the promise of timber jobs, shouldn't the operators or owners of the veneer mill be required to adhere to the environmental standards presently in place in Ward Cove?

If the KGB wants to protect the remediation actions undertaken in Ward Cove, they can insist the veneer industry follow standards for the log transfer facility and place the veneer logs on barges like the rest of the timber industry is doing.

Ward Cove is in remediation. Much of it has been dredged, sand-capped or left to naturally recolonize the benthic community. By barging logs to this LTF and keeping them out of the water, the problems with the pesky toredos and the pesky environmentalist concerned with the remediation process are both eliminated and the industry can move ahead to clear the other hurdles, such as worldwide market for veneer, timber supply, investors and operators willing to take yet another chance with the veneer mill.

Robert Holston Jr.


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