Craig Land Exchange Wednesday
February 03, 2004
The hearing by the Senate Public Lands and Forest Subcommittee and its chairman, Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, will start at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday in Senate Dirksen Room 366. Those who will testify on the Cape Fox bill include Marilyn Blair, President of the Cape Fox Corp.; Buck Lindekugel, conservation director of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, and Troy Fierro, vice president of Coeur d'Alene Mines Corp; in addition to an Administration witness, Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Rey. Craig Mayor Dennis Watson will testify on the Craig land bill, as will the Bush Administration.
Murkowski noted that she will submit for the record a transcript of her Sept. 20, 2003 town meeting in Juneau where 65 Alaskans spoke and another dozen submitted written testimony on the Cape Fox bill. Murkowski also will unveil amendments she has crafted in the Cape Fox bill in an effort to satisfy public comments about the proposed legislation.
The Cape Fox legislation allows Cape Fox, the ANCSA corporation for Saxman, to select 99 acres of timber land adjacent to its existing holdings on Revilla Island at Ketchikan, in return for giving up its obligation to select 160 acres near Ketchikan. The bill also authorizes an exchange of up to 2,900 acres of surface corporation land near George Inlet on Revilla Island for approximately 2,600 acres of surface National Forest System land near Berners Bay, north of Juneau.
The Forest Service has interest in acquiring the George Inlet parcels for wildlife and recreation purposes. The lands to be selected by Cape Fox near Slate Lakes, north of Berners Bay, will enable the proposed Jualin and Kensington Gold Mines to operate totally on private land, which may help speed their development, boosting Juneau's economy, but also helping Native shareholders throughout the region.
Murkowski noted that the proposed land exchange also would help the public by solving a related subsurface land ownership issue. In the exchange, Sealaska Native Regional Corporation will be gaining surface and subsurface rights near the Jualin and Kensington mines in return for giving up such subsurface rights on Revilla and Prince of Wales Islands. The Craig bill will allow the City of Craig in Southeast to acquire the site of the former Wards Cove Packing Company's fish processing plant in downtown Craig in return for exchanging the Sunnahae property and trail in Craig to the U.S. Forest Service. The exchange, co-sponsored by Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, involves the Forest Service buying the 349 acres of trail, trailhead and parking area along with mountaintop property. Craig then will use federal funding to acquire the 221,000-square-foot site (on 10 acres) of the former cannery, located on the waterfront at Third and Main Streets. The site is the prime location for economic, commercial or industrial development in central Prince of Wales Island.
The exchange will allow the Forest Service to acquire prime recreation and hiking trail that leads to Mount Sunnahae, located east of Craig, plus a large recreation track on the north side of the mountain. Murkowski said the trade would also give the Forest Service's Craig Ranger District Station forest lands to manage. Currently, the ranger station is in the unusual situation of being in an in-holding surrounded by private, state and city-owned lands.
Murkowski said she introduced the bill at the request of island residents to assist Prince of Wales residents in diversifying their economy to overcome the losses caused by the downturn in the area's timber industry. The bill requires an appraisal by a qualified outside appraiser before the exchange takes place. In addition, the legislation allows for an appropriation of $250,000 to the Forest Service for trail maintenance and rehabilitation on the property.
Following the hearing, the measures still must be reviewed and approved by the full Energy Committee before floor consideration.
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