Aug 29, 2010
About a three-and-a-half years ago, the Ugashik Traditional Village’s Tribal Council applied for permits to build a new dock. The dock proposed in that permitting process is ambitious and includes converting the back portion of the old cannery building into a processing area at a later date.
The Permitting Process
During the permitting process, I publicly questioned a few things about the proposal which, apparently, upset the drift boat owners who favor the new dock. Among the issues I questioned were subsistence fishing, the proximity of commercial set net fishing sites to the proposed construction and what the timing of demolition would do to those fishing sites. My questions drew the ire of not only the president of the Tribal Council but also some of the small drift boat owners, the part-time villagers who are most likely to benefit from the dock.
My husband and I took our questions to our Lake and Peninsula Borough’s planning committee, which had its own concerns. Before the planning committee agreed to approve and issue the their permit they asked that modifications be made to address things like safety, the commercial fishing set net sites located about 1000′ up river from the proposed dock and a host of other issues before they would agree for the permits to be issued.
The changes were made and the permits were approved by the various borough, state and federal agencies.
Where’s the Funding
At the time I felt filing for the permits was a case of the “putting the cart before the horse” as the Ugashik Traditional Village Tribal Council had not yet received ANY grant monies from any agency towards this project. Getting permits before approval for grant monies is sometimes done to show that the project will not hit any major hang-ups during the permitting phase. Permits can then be extended.
The lack of overall infrastructure in Ugashik, the aging and tiny number of actual, year-round residents and a lack of fish remaining after the current processor completes seasonal harvesting are all reasons that this line of thinking has never worked in the past in getting grant monies. This did not seem to dawn on any of the council enough to rethink the need for a new dock.
The tribal council appears to suffer from a lack of awareness that all these grant agencies know each other and ‘talk’. Many times my husband and I have been personally contacted and asked to supply facts about our community that the grant reader felt were left out to help disguise how small a village we really are.
This pricey dock proposal seems especially questionable to me due to an occurrence I witnessed only a few months earlier. A meeting was held with yet another of many economic development consultants about how the village might move forward with some type of economic development plan.
This latest consultant represented a very respectable company and met with the few local winter residents, as well a few summer residents, trying to glean input on what type of economic development might be feasible, especially as it might be relate to the new proposed dock. Although this meeting lasted more than three hours, I do not recall even a SINGLE concrete idea expressed to support this new dock as proposed.
At one point, my frustration with the group on the lack of solid, well-thought out planning led me to ask: “What if, heaven forbid, the old rotted dock fell into the river tonight. How would the local fishermen, especially the drift fishermen pushing for this new dock, be hurt?” The answer……wait for it, I am sure your jaw will drop as mine did…..’We would be inconvenienced’!!!
Might this be a case of these few drift fishermen feeling they are entitled to the new proposed dock, as much as$330,000, that would never be used by more than maybe a total of 6-8 local residents to load/unload gear, for ONLY about 4-6 weeks each year?
About this time last year the ‘dock project’ stalled, despite efforts by the tribal council to the contrary. It was also about then that I learned the use of funds available by our CDQ, Bristol Bay Economic Developent, as ‘community block’ grants were being sunk into the project WITHOUT consulting the specific residents these funds are directly meant to assist.
My efforts to get these funding details might well surprise some of you who are new to this type of fight. Other readers will see a pattern many of us fight in Alaska!!!
Coming soon — Questionable use CDQ/BBEDC Funds by Tribal Council