SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


All Eyes on Gravina
By Gregory Vickrey


February 25, 2007
Sunday AM

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 326.

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:

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 road immediately.

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.

Gregory Vickery
Ketchikan, AK

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."



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