Words used negatively

Posted: Tuesday, September 09, 2003

The first two paragraphs of your article (Sunday's Empire) about the Lake Dorothy Hydro project make it appear the hydro company made a payment to the state in a last desperate attempt to get the project permitted. In fact, the company and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reached agreement on a set of permit conditions, including some mitigation, last winter, which is acknowledged later in the story. The fee-in-lieu of on-site mitigation was not an act of desperation, but a normal part of permitting for a large project. And it's old news as far as this project is concerned.

I spent roughly two hours with your reporter while he was working on this story, explaining the permitting process itself. We had minimal conversation about the Lake Dorothy project and none about specific aspects of the project. Thus although it appears that I was talking about Lake Dorothy in the quote about mitigation, I had merely explained several times - in technical language and then increasingly more vernacular language - that there are routine requirements that any project avoid impacts to the extent possible, minimize impacts that cannot be avoided, mitigate (make other improvements) for impacts that cannot be avoided or minimized, and in some instances, provide a fee in lieu of mitigation.

Mitigation is neither an act of desperation nor a shady deal, but a very positive part of development that benefits communities. And, in this instance, it is a smaller, albeit important, aspect of the Lake Dorothy project that would have been more appropriate as an example in a story about mitigation in general. The current news about the project is that, as I told your reporter, Lake Dorothy is a very straightforward project, the licensing process is complex and conditional, and it is due to be completed very shortly.

I am distressed that, after a lengthy interview and several follow-up phone calls, your reporter used my words so negatively and inappropriately to try to add some drama to the article. It's a disservice to Lake Dorothy Hydro, state agencies and certainly to me.

Sandy Harbanuk


We regret Ms. Harbanuk's distress. But, after reviewing the article with the reporter, the Empire stands by its accuracy. The article did not characterize mitigation as "an act of desperation" nor as "a shady deal." - Editor.

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