With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season officially underway, apparently Goldbelt has decided to do a little hustling of its own. If you want to visit Berners Bay as it is, better get there in the next month. The Juneau Planning Commission meets tonight and will decide on a conditional-use permit for Goldbelt's rock quarry at Echo Cove, an essential part of constructing the road to Cascade Point. If all goes according to Goldbelt's plan, blasting at the quarry and clearing trees from the road right-of-way will begin before the end of December.
What concerns me is that this road is the first step in unraveling the integrity of Berners Bay. It is being built to support the Kensington mine project and follows the same route as the proposed Juneau Access road. This road will start changing thebay - with its large hooligan run and the only herring spawning grounds in Lynn Canal - from an outstanding resource that supports a strong Southeast fishery to an industrial zone.
It seems strange to me that the road is being built before Coeur's most recent mining plan has been approved and before the planning for the Juneau Access project is complete. What's the rush? December can't be the best time of year to start a road construction project - particularly a road, funded with public money, that crosses public land to support a mine that hasn't been approved. Decisions that will result in irreversible changes to public lands as ecologically and culturally valuable as Berners Bay must be made with the public interest foremost in mind, not corporate profits.
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