All Eyes on Gravina
By Gregory Vickrey
February 25, 2007
For several months now, the Tongass Conservation Society has
taken a keen interest in the road building activities going on
Gravina Island. Specifically, we have watched the construction
of the Bostwick Road and the pursuit of other projects such as
the Gravina Access Highway.
Why the interest? Any why are we speaking publically now?
The Bostwick Road is a pet project of the Murkowski administration,
a "Roads to Resources" endeavor designed to make timber
available to Pacific Log and Lumber (Steve Seley). This road
became a concern of ours after discovering in mid-2006 that no
portion of the road nor any of the associated rock pits were
permitted under the Clean Water Act via the Army Corps of Engineers.
Roads built for silvicultural purposes are often exempt from
permit status, but this one is not because it will remain open
for recreation and other purposes. Statements made by the Ketchikan
Gateway Borough, the United States Forest Service, and the Alaska
Department of Natural Resources to the Army Corps of Engineers
staff monitoring the project verify this point, as do email exchanges
I am privy to, as well as Borough Assembly meeting recordings.
So what we have, here, is a road under construction and nearly
complete - a road that has not been permitted through proper
legal channels as described in regulatory fashion: 33 CFR Part
Army Corps of Engineers staff, most prominently Robin Leighty,
worked very hard to legitimize the Bostwick road project. Ms.
Leighty and others visited Gravina with me during the fall of
2006 and were appalled not only by the lack of permitting but
by the conditions of the road: erosion controls were all but
nonexistent; overburden related to the pits was strewn into nearby
wetlands; and debris from construction sprawled down the hillsides
along Bostwick Lake.
At that point the Corps initiated a Cease and Desist process
that would have stopped, temporarily, construction of the road,
and prevented its use until permits were in place, erosion problems
were dealt with, and any mitigation necessary would be completed.
Throughout November, December, and January 2007, we kept in close
contact with the Corps and due to issues related to other projects
such as the Berth IV construction, the Cease and Desist order
was delayed. Finally, in January, we were told by Corps staff
that the Cease and Desist order was complete and was making its
way up the chain of command for issuance by the end of the week
That Cease and Desist order was never issued. It is an order
that has been held up by higher-ups in the Army Corps of Engineers
regulatory staff. According to our conversations with staff responsible
for the order's creation, there is no plausible reason for delaying
issuance. We strongly believe - when Army Corps of Engineers
staff have visited the project, have documented its problems,
have acknowledged its need for permitting under the Clean Water
Act, and have pursued a process to legitimize the road - that
issuance of the Cease and Desist order is way overdue. The reasons
for issuing it have been fully vetted by Corps staff, and they
agree fully with our concerns.
And yet here we are, with a road 2000 feet away from being complete,
activity along it rampant, and the various agencies involved
with its construction scrambling to explain, and backpedaling
about, its stated purpose.
Because the Army Corps of Engineers has failed to follow the
law by making sure the Bostwick road is permitted, we are speaking
out. They have not upheld the standards written in the statute
that require permitting of this road.
Because the Department of Natural Resources, the Ketchikan Gateway
Borough, and the United States Forest Service have not been forthright
with the Army Corps of Engineers regarding the purpose of this
road and have not legitimately pursued making it a legal project
through permit applications, we are speaking out.
Because Gravina means so much to so many people, and because
any development occurring there needs to be fully vetted through
the proper legal channels, we are speaking out.
Because we are tired of agencies and governments working to circumvent
the law while pursuing development in and around Ketchikan, we
are speaking out.
We encourage you to speak out as well.
Here is the solution to this debacle of a project. The Army Corps
of Engineers should issue a Cease and Desist order immediately.
If they are unwilling to do so, the State of Alaska should halt
construction voluntarily. Once the construction is put on hold,
the Bostwick road should be closed indefinitely to activity beyond
mitigation and repairs. The State should then work to secure
the proper permits via the Army Corps of Engineers. In the meantime,
the State should work with the Corps and the contractors to ensure
erosion controls are put in place along the length of the current
road, mitigation is performed to reduce damage and wetlands deterioration
along its length and next to the associated rock pits, and debris
along the route is removed. Once the proper permits are issued
and damage has been curtailed or mitigated, the road may open
again for logging activity on State and Mental Health lands.
Governor Palin has been made aware of the situation and the lack
of permitting of the Bostwick road. If the Corps refuses to follow
the law, we encourage the Governor to intervene directly and
stop the construction and activity until permits are in place.
You may contact Governor Palin via her webpage: http://gov.state.ak.us/index.php
Let the Governor know that the Bostwick road should be closed
until permits are in place.
You may contact the Army Corps of Engineers by calling: 800.478.2712.
Ask the Corps to issue a Cease and Desist order for the Bostwick
You may contact TCS with questions or concerns.
And please feel free to visit our website for more information:
Speak up. Write letters. Let's get a road that is legal.
Received February 23, 2007 - Published February 25, 2006
About: "Gregory Vickrey
is the director of the Tongass Conservation Society and a good
friend of Gravina Island."
Note: Comments published
on Viewpoints are the opinions of the writer
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sitnews.
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