Ugashik, Alaska – Population 11 (Photo: Tricia Ward)
Sep 5, 2010
About 5 years ago Roland and I decided we must start getting involved in organizations that are working towards economic development in our Bristol Bay area. It was when we first started attending these meetings, in an attempt to wade through the troughs of dung we were being fed locally, we heard about the most current dock proposal being floated.
Most granting agencies who were at these meetings could not believe that some of the villagers were seriously about their need for this type of expensive project.
Questionable use CDQ/BBEDC Funds by Tribal Council
Now comes what I feel are REALLY insulting and questionable actions being taken by the Tribal Council. (I can’t say ‘local’ as the vast majority of them do not live here, own land here or rely on any income from the village)
No federal or state agency has approved ANY of the proposals for a new dock with grant funds so the council has decided to use our CDQ/BBEDC funds to build/buy some type of dock. I would not have any objections with the tribal council if they were using either outside grant funds or any THEIR tribal funds, especially given this is on PRIVATE land they own. What I specifically boject to is that they plan to use CDQ/BBEDC funds without seeking input, in a responsible manner, from the local full-time residents.
The CDQ program, developed from the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, was set up so that locals, meaning Alaska’s western, full-time village residents, control and direct the program. Supposedly through their right to select their CDQ board members, vote for their local city or borough councils they can hold these people accountable. We, the 70% that are not voting members of the tribe, have NONE of those rights in Ugashik as we CANNOT vote for ANY of those making the decision. The VAST majority of us are shut out of this voting privilege.
In my eyes, no matter that many of us feel the results of CDQ funding have moved totally away from its original intent, I can’t see how ANYONE can support this project as qualifying for CDQ funds.
I question how anyone can argue that this will somehow be the best use of funds meant to help create economic development or assist the full-time residents of Ugashik in some meaningful way.
The ironic thing is the BBEDC board member from our village, a full-time resident, and the one Tribal Council member, also a full-time resident BOTH claim they have informed the council that they can’t use these funds without receiving input and being accountable to all full-time residents.
(I do challenge if this is an honest claim as our BBEDC Board member is in the middle pushing hard and heavy for this dock as her husband will benefit, even though he is supposedly planning to retire from drifting soon. She has made public statements that she does not want her husband having to haul nets and supplies up and over-board to his boat.)
Given we in the village are at least 60% NOT Ugashik Tribal members, and thus don’t vote for Tribal Council members or have any say so on who is appointed as our BBEDC board representative, it doesn’t surprise me that the council ignores the full-time residents.
We also do not have the back up of a city government, as most villages do, that would act as the locally accountable force to enter into this discussion.
Just so it is clear. 80% of the council who are not local are not even SUMMER residents. They just visit for a few days to a week in the summer, never have come out in the winter!!! Most have not lived here in decades, while some have NEVER lived here!! Only one of five relies on something in the village for an income.
(It tends to remind me of the times before the civil rights movement when the blacks were told “we will appoint someone to take care of you but you can’t vote for who it will be.)
I have asked for an accounting of BBEDC monies, for our village, two separate times from both BBEDC and the Tribal Council. My requests asked for the full amount of funds granted for the first two “stages” of the project they call a community dock project. I have asked what benchmarks they have met so that the requests for more monies to be granted into “stage three”.
Their responses were to totally ignore me, even when I sent, and they accepted, registered letters.
About two months ago, I sent a quick email warning (the email exchange follows this post) to a couple of Tribal Council members. I told them that I feel they need to be able to account for all BBEDC funds on this project, and I cautioned them that the direction they are heading doesn’t appear to be consistent with the intent of the Federal Act that set up the CDQ programs.
I received a reply from the Tribe’s President, which surprised the hell out of me. She said she would not respond until she had spoken to all parties involved. I had to wonder…. “What, you don’t already know that this is going on with this project?” What does that say? Mostly I think it shows itself to be a stall tactic to get the monies spent and then do the typical CYA maneuver so popular lately! Instead it turned out to at least partly be a case of check with all the lawyers before she replied. It is was no surprise the BBEDC lawyers support the council not being accountable to local residents.
One recent event just floored Roland and me. We were accompanying a contractor a few weeks ago to get an overview of the dock and what might be wanted. Two part-time residents, both drift fishermen, told this contractor they were ‘leading the effort’ to secure a dock this season. (This was later confirmed by our resident Tribal Council member and the Tribal Administrator.)
They ALSO volunteered EXACTLY how much funding they had, $330,000, and that it was all “CDQ/BBEDC funds”!!
So, we have an 80% out-of-region Tribal Council asking two out-of-region drift fishermen to lead the efforts to secure a community dock to benefit, at NO COST, the 75% out-of-region drift fishermen to the tune of up to $330,000 for just THIS PART of the project!!!
All this effort and time over the last, maybe, 6-8 years has been to secure a dock for these drift fishermen so they are not inconvenienced while 100% of the set net fishermen went without a secure market, meaning many days they could not fish, for at least the last 4 years.
Now we have 4, of 8, set net fishermen who are residents. We have another full-time resident who relies on the set net fishery in our village for his income. So basically we have about 62% of the set net fishermen as full-time residents relying on the set net fishery for, if not their whole income, then at least a major portion.
This tiny village has many needs that these funds could go to that would impact our lives and ability to continue to live in the village.I firmly believe this project has not even come close to proving it is anything more a pet project for a couple of pushy, loud, determined fishermen, and only one family that is local.
Recently I have aquired a copy of the LATEST Business Plan done for the UTV. I will discuss that in another post.
We have also been informed that the UTV continues to move forward on purchasing some type of dock and now we even hear a crane. Please note as of this date, there still remains no accounting of the monies spent yet, how it will be maintained or even why public monies are allowed to be spent on a project on PRIVATE LAND!
The email exchange follows:
My initial email to the president of the Tribal Council:
Just a fast word of caution.
Before ANY MORE BBEDC funds, and I understand as of a few minutes ago no dock as been purchased as of yet, are spent on the dock project you and the council better be willing to explain why non-BBEDC people are leading the charge for ANY dock, that will benefit non-BBEDC people more than residents, and why non-BBEDC people are using this dock and the ice machine at no charge.
If you doubt my comments as to HOW SERIOUS this is…check with your village/BBEDC council member and your BBEDC board rep. They have assured me they have warned the council to using monies that provide free services to non-residents and do not benefit BBEDC residents.
The council, which is 80% out of region, is continuing to spend BBEDC funds, asking other out of region people to do the actual work to secure the dock, with no accountability to the BBEDC residents. Providing a service that only 2 BBEDC members might benefit. One of those residents being the husband of the BBEDC board member.
There is NO sounds economic justification for this project and no approval or accountability to the BBEDC residents of the village.
This is sounding too much like a pet project and if it proceeds without a full and immediate accounting and approval by the residents, all of them, I will move for every type of investigation:legal, legislative and what ever means needed to bring this to the public and federal authorities attention.
I will then move to have all BBEDC funds use looked into, any state funds that are meant for the villagers, etc. looked into.
You and the council are proceeding down a path that is unacceptable. I would caution you to not feel you will spend now and claim lack of knowledge later, there is too much evidence showing the council is well aware this is unacceptable. I will move to hold everyone associated with this effort accountable.
The initial reponse from the President, Kristi Downing, of the Ugashik Traditional Village Council:
June 18, 2010
I have received your email and I will respond after I have gathered more information from all parties involved.
Ugashik Traditional Village
206 E Fireweed Lane Suite 204
Anchorage, Ak 99502
After ‘gathering more information’ the Ugashik Tribal President Kristi Downing replied:
Please give me WHAT economic development you feel the dock will help? The building permit claims you are not expecting any additional boat or barge traffic due to this project.
Also, give there is no dock this season and the drift boats are not loosing any monies or fishing opportunity this goes to the heart of the questionable use of BBEDC dollars.
The dock project is a part of the overall picture for economic development. UTV has a business plan in place that will help all members. We are working to develop a buying station for fisherman and the dock is vital. As you know with current markets our fisherman are put on a daily limit. We would like to be able to accept the overage and be able to assist the fishing community.
Why are you opposed to the dock project? We feel that this will benefit everyone in the community.
To which I replied:
First off I am NOT against the dock, but I am against ANY project that is wasteful and will not benefit the majority of villagers, especially the full time residents which are to be the first consideration when using BBEDC funds.
Secondly, the council has NEVER discussed these plans in detail with the BBEDC residents or any other viable economic plan. It is interesting that NOW it is being called a buying station, versus all other times the plan has been called set up for a processing plant. When did this change come about?
I believe as BBEDC residents we should be able to see that business plan. If the council is using other monies besides BBEDC monies I can understand the plan not being shared but as it appears to be BBEEC monies and thus the BBEDC residents should be TOTALLY involved. This is especially important here in Ugashik because the majority of the full time residents are not tribal, able to hold the people making the decisions accountable without law suit and we have no city government which would normally act as a stop gap on these representation issues.
I also have a REAL issue with non-BBEDC residents leading this project. When these two people were meeting with Dave Lax, the possible contractor, they were not considering set netter needs and this is ANOTHER example of things not being run by locals and those that are in REAL need of the markets.
Despite what the council might think the best people to help see flaws in any plan are those who live full time, deal with village conditions and the infrastructure all the time and rely on this for almost their entire income. (the greenhouse is a PREFECT example of good intentions and a lack of local knowledge. Buying a style that has been known to not stand up to our conditions and will require additional things to even HOPE it will hold up.) I am NOT talking about a shout out with those in the summer community who manage to yell at any opposition and on more than one occasion have shown little respect or regard for the full time residents.
No offense to Dennis but the attempts to deal with the dock demo in the past, the total waste of monies on tools that were not adequate and then the collapsing of the dock should give the council an indication of the lack of knowledge. There is a VERY GOOD reason ‘locals’ washed their hands of the demo last fall. (By the way, YES, the spring demo did use my husband BUT there were comments made that when the contractor was needing more funds they did not want them to go to him. I find those VERY offensive. He is a BBEDC resident and that seems to be ignored many times)
I believe there is a reason the council has been unable to get ANY outside agency to fund the project as it had been presented. IT is NOT viable. If another plan has been developed then it needs to be shared BEFORE any more monies are spent. When I have asked, from the council, what has been received and accomplished with BBEDC funds on this project I have been TOTALLY ignored, despite the office getting and receiving registered letters to this matter. This does not allow for much trust or agreement.
I am also VERY concerned that the council, by allowing the two non-locals to lead this, are not aware and following local and state permitting needs. What I have heard planned at this point is MUCH different than the permitted plans and need to be brought to the attention of the borough and state.
Overall I still believe that this project is aimed at the drift fleet, who all have markets, and I find it VERY doubtful they will travel to the village on over limit days to drop any extra fish they might have. They have not in the past when presented with an opportunity to sell their over limit fish.
Even the basic need of getting ice, let alone the dropping of fish, needs to be done at lower tides. I have yet to hear ANY discussion of this when it comes to the dock plan, pointing to just a place for the fleet to tie up to for 2-3 weeks a year.
I also feel that unless another outside processor is brought in no other company will use this as a ‘buying station’ ESPECIALLY during over limit times. There is a reason there is no longer ANY company willing to come with a tender to the village, it is NOT VIABLE. There seems to be a total lack of understanding of the processor needs when it comes to these issues and thus still one more reason I continue to feel this is a pet project for the small drift fleet of mostly summer residents.
At no time has the council, any of them, has had a meeting with set netters to address their needs and if you feel you can ask one or two people and THINK you understand I believe that is a major mistake.
I also do not want to hear that we do not care about this village and the fishermen’s needs. We tendered at no cost, lowering our income drastically, when there was no market for set netters. We put in a tremendous amount of work to bring John Boggs into the area. His staying here and buying in the village is IF we add our fish to what he hauls out. If we pull those fish he will most likely do so also.
We have also increased our capacity at the plant, and continue to do so, to help.
This spring when Copper River and Robin did the courtesy visit about possibly buying from the village Joe, from CR, was quick to say he would ONLY fly fish out and could only do that via our strip due to the size of planes needed. He also had major questions as to if there was enough volume to warrant it. He looked to US for amounts of fish that MIGHT need to be flown out. He will also probably ONLY do this IF he can get monies from BBEDC to assist him, and there might well be issues with that.
There is no way another company from the outside will come into Ugashik without our blessing, especially using BBEDC funds unless we are in agreement.
At no time has there ever been a discussion with Roland and I to see what we are doing and how that might help with markets for any fisherman. One past council asked us to submit some ‘plan’ to them. When asked when they felt they would be ready to move on anything they had no date, thus making ANY plan silly. As Leslie was up for re-election she had mentioned that she would want to talk as she was NOW in understanding what might be needed and could move. Obviously that went when she did and nothing has come out of the council since.
All of the above points to this being something that is not well thought out, continues to change at the turn of a hat and ultimately a waste of BBEDC funds. This is my complaint, not the actual project, especially given the many issues the full time residents have as needs and are SUPPOSED to be addressed by BBEDC monies.
I/we are not opposed to a dock BUT want it thought out, discussed and viable for the entire community, not shout out sessions in the summer. Not turning out to be a pet project that meets the needs of only 2 residents VERY near retirement, especially when no one is willing to pay for ANY service or upkeep. (Kristi- you were not here when Northern Economics, think that is the right name, was here and this was discussed in DETAIL. NO ONE could come up with ANY economic project that would tie to this dock. Dennis and the few resident drifters came up with that it would be inconvenient IF they did not have a dock. No one was willing to encourage building any need for outsiders to come and use it, to have to pay for it in any way, etc. They felt they DESERVED IT…entitlement to the max…BAD thought process. I don’t care WHAT the council MIGHT want unless full time residents are not behind it …nothing will ever happen.)
If the council is so sure this is the way to go why hasn’t this business plan been shared? I have to wonder if there have been ANY SERIOUS discussion with a processor about making this a ‘buying station’ ? Has any volume been talked about? What is a timeline?
Somehow my guess is there are MAJOR gaps and issues with this business plan and the urgency that seems to be pushing forward this year is based on VERY faulty information. One other major area is that this project is happening on PRIVATE property with no long term agreement to assure that ALL residents and people can make use of it in the future.
We too have been discussing how the council is handling the BBEDC monies with an attorney, one who specializes in CDQ issues, and more importantly various government entities. There are LOTS of questions and most of them to do not point to BBEDC being on firm ground when it comes to how things are handled, thus my lack of trust in people like Chris N. in knowing that this council is going about it as they need to.
As you can see I am open to this project moving forward but not unless it is discussed and shows more than just ‘thoughts’ of success. The urgency of anything further happening during this season, with part time residents leading the effort, has proven to be less than successful in the past. I can see nothing different from what you have said and I have seen so far.
These are BBEDC funds and benefiting the tribe and part time residents, especially at no cost to them, over the needs of the full time residents is not as it should be period!!
THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A REPLY TO THIS LAST LETTER. The President did not attend the ‘annual meeting’ which was mostly closed to anyone that was not a member of the tribe. She did ‘call in’. Unfortunately due to the many delays that day of the meeting by the Council before it was finally opened to the rest of the villagers we had to attend to the loading of a plane and missed it. No minutes have been made available concerning the meeting to this date that are available to the residents who are not tribal members.