State Investigates Allegations of Forest Service Misrepresentations
November 30, 2012
The DEC letter to the U.S. Forest Service was prompted by a Pothole Permit Termination Request filed by Earthjustice on behalf of its client, the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) in early October.
“We strongly support the actions DEC’s has taken to protect the credibility and integrity of its permitting process,” said Buck Lindekugel, SEACC’s Grassroots Attorney.
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation stated in its letter to the U.S. Forest Service that the department is providing the Forest Service an opportunity to respond to the allegations and to provide a written response to DEC by December 19, 2012. DEC will use the Forest Service response and any other pertinent information on record in arriving at a decision regarding the request to terminate the general permit authorization.
According to the terms of the authorization by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S. Forest Service was permitted by the DEC to discharge bark and wood debris associated with in-water log storage in Alexander Bay, also called the Pothole.
The intermittent storage of log raft bundles in Alexander Bay in Wrangell Narrows has been a significant source of controversy with the Tonka Timber Sale, approved by Tongass Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole in March of 2012. The Pothole is important for commercial crabbing, and log storage is known to negatively affect the seafloor and crab populations.
“By unnecessarily and aggressively advocating log rafting instead of barging, the Forest Service stoked conflict between loggers and fishermen. A permit to raft and store logs over productive crab grounds did not need to be part of a successful Tonka timber sale,” said Bob Martin, SEACC member and Pothole crabber.
Following review of the state’s permit record, and records unearthed from the Tonka planning record, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) and Earthjustice assert that the Forest Service hid the ball from DEC by:
Earthjustice's letter to the Alaska Department of Environmental conservation (DEC), stated the Forest Service’s submissions to the DEC omitted crucial, relevant information and included information that the Forest Service knew to be false or misleading, and the Forest Service failed to correct those statements during the permitting process, in breach of its obligation to “fully disclose all relevant facts in the application [and] during the permit issuance process.” The omissions or misrepresentations are significant because the contradicted information played significantly in key determinations that the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) was required by regulation to make.
Earthjustice further stated that the Forest Service’s misrepresentations and omissions undermined the integrity of DEC’s permitting process and the DEC, as well as members of the public like SEACC, should be able to rely on the veracity of the information submitted by an applicant for a permit. Earthjustice stated that DEC must make clear that it will not tolerate false information submitted by any applicant, whether a private party or another government agency. To do otherwise would send a message to other applicants and to the public that the information submitted to DEC is unimportant and that DEC’s permits are based on incorrect information and do not serve their intended purposes. It would also suggest that DEC is not ready to bear its recently won responsibility of administering the APDES program.
Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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