Natives renew complaint about spraying permit

Critics charge the state - once again - isn't providing sufficient public comment

Posted: Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Some Southeast Alaska tribal groups are coming out in renewed opposition to Klukwan Inc.'s second attempt to spray chemicals on its Long Island second-growth timber.

The Haines-based Native corporation withdrew its original application to spray herbicides on its land this summer after more than 20 organizations in Alaska appealed the state's approval of the permit.

The corporation resubmitted its application with a couple of changes to the chemical mixture - adding two chemicals that could reduce the aerial spread of the herbicides - and the new proposal is up for public comment until Oct. 31.

But some critics say that once again, the state is not providing adequate public comment. They say they also worry that fish farms could seize on the issue, declaring that Alaska wild salmon is polluted.

Tribal officials in Ketchikan complained Monday that Alaska officials had dismissed their request for a public hearing on Klukwan's permit in their city.

Two hearings have been held on the proposed spray permit, in Craig and Hydaburg. The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) declined to hold a hearing in Ketchikan, saying that it was too far away from the affected area.

The state will review the proposed permit for two to three months after the public comment period ends on Oct. 31, said Kim Stricklan, the DEC solid waste and pesticides program manager.

But some Haida and Tlingit people in Ketchikan who have roots on Long Island and still go there to hunt, fish and collect other subsistence food said Monday that they deserved a hearing.

The Ketchikan Indian Community said it plans to sue if the permit goes through.

Many families who previously lived on Long Island left to get schooling in Hydaburg, but now people are migrating out of the Prince of Wales Island villages to Ketchikan to look for work because of the economic decline in the villages, said Rob Sanderson, the Ketchikan Indian Community's subsistence and cultural committee chairman.

Ketchikan resident Tom Skultka, for example, has family ties to the historic Howkan village on Long Island.

The village, emptied in the 1960s, is located just a few miles away from the area that Klukwan Inc. plans to spray its clear-cut land, Skultka said.

Skultka said he is horrified that Klukwan Inc. would be allowed to spray chemicals that kill off the plants that feed deer and birds.

"This isn't just a local issue anymore," Sanderson said.

He and others said Monday at a Ketchikan Indian Community press conference that the permit, if approved, could open the door to such spraying all over the state.

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