Archive for September, 2011

If only it was simple. Pebble mine.

September 25, 2011

We have municipal  elections coming up  October 4.

In my area, we are considering a number of propositions and will vote to fill Assembly seats.

Folks all around the state will be making similar decisions for their communities about who will represent them and how they will conduct their community business. In many respects and if we are organized under home rule charter, we get to make more decisions at the local level than people do in most other states .

News and comment about the “Save our Salmon ” initiative which is on the ballot in the Lake and Peninsula Borough has been heavy in recent days. Pebble Prospect, Mine, Whatever, is on state land situated in the Lake and Pen Borough

The seemingly simple language to amend Lake and Pen’s planning code is not simple at all, in any respect, and has caught the attention of people all over the state and Outside because of the issues surrounding the proposed Pebble Mine.
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I asked friends in the Lake and Pen Borough how and what was going on locally.

If the deluge of scanned mailers which hit my inbox in response could make a sound it would have been along the order of a huge ARGGGHHHH!

My first response, looking at all the mailers, was all the things my ma used to say when she was trying not to swear: Egads! Gadzooks! Crimenently! and Pfffttt!

Most of this kind of campaign stuff is of no use whatsover in helping people make informed voting decisions but it sure whups up emotions and, too often, leaves lingering damage to reputations and  resentments between neighbors, as well as muddying issues in general.

There are a lot of eyes watching this initiative vote and following some of the news about it. The proposed Pebble mine is scaring the bejabbers out of many like me who fear we have really done nothing in this state to develop a clear and complete framework which does what this initiative proposes to do-which is to say no to large  resource extraction development projects which pose clear dangers to salmon habitat and clean water.

The basic declaration of  Mineral Development Policies  of the State of Alaska  has some appearance of  balancing water and habitat interests but vesting DNR , Department of Natural Resources , with lead authority :

Alaska Statute – Title 27. Mining. Chapter 05. Administration and Services. Article 1. Department of Natural Resources. Section 27.05.010. Department responsible for mineral resources.

(a)The department has charge of all matters affecting exploration, development, and mining of the mineral resources of the state, the collection and dissemination of all official information relative to the mineral resources, and mines and mining projects of the state, and the administration of the laws with respect to all kinds of mining.

(b) The department is the lead agency for all matters relating to the exploration, development, and management of mining, and, in its capacity as lead agency, shall coordinate all regulatory matters concerning mineral resource exploration, development, mining, and associated activities. Before a state agency takes action that may directly or indirectly affect the exploration, development, or management of mineral resources, the agency shall consult with and draw upon the mining expertise of the department.

has in reality made for a cockeyed view of what could be said to be balance between mineral extraction and fish and wildlife habitat and water uses. Unlike many other states, Alaska does not house Fish and Game within Natural Resources so Fish and Game issues don’t really have equal footing with mineral development. The acceptance within DNR of industry notions of what constitutes appropriate mitigation, remediation or recompense, blah, blah, blah for noncompliance or failure on the part of the extraction companies fails to fully encompass what could be said to at stake, especially as relates the huge plan for Pebble.

The complaint filed by six Tribal Councils of federally recognized tribes against the State, DNR, and then Commissioner of DNR Tom Irwin is an excellent read in the frustrations Alaskans have with DNR as relates to minerals v other uses and well worth the time to really look at.

The repeated use of the term ad hoc
done for particular purpose: done or set up solely in response to a specific situation or problem, without considering wider or longer-term issues

in the complaint is especially pointed and,  to my mind, valid as it relates to the cavalier appropriation and redefinition of so many terms  defined elsewhere in our laws to push mineral extraction in the 2005 BBAP, which as the complaint notes is ” the state’s principal land use plan for state lands in the Bristol Bay area .”

After the usual initial flurry of motions and a couple of hearings the complaint sits as an undisposed and  open case over 2 years later and no one I know has a clue about what comes next.

The letter the Board of Fish sent to the Legislature , after hearing and denying a proposal  to establish a fish refuge in Bristol Bay  , was cause for some hope that the Legislature would move to really look at statutory framework  for mine permitting which addressed fish and water concerns from their own value as opposed to bits and pieces of a mining proposal. Money was appropriated but members of the Legislative council could not come to a common understanding about what to do  so they changed the focus of the study.

As an everyday person and  citizen of Alaska , this process has been wearing and disheartening  on so many levels. The Pebble Partnership has interjected itself in every step, every argument. Some of it is logical given its stake in the proposal, some of it is horsepunky. Along with specifics about this proposal,  Alaskans are trying to sort out overarching principles of balance between competing but concurrent uses of our lands and waters that we had not had to face before the Pebble Prospect reared its head. We take the idea that our resources should be managed for the benefit of all Alaskans very seriously but I don’t think we have ever had to look at the whys, whats, hows, of what could be called “benefit”, “all”, and so on with such a critical eye to what we might lose if we screw up.

Next: the initiative itself

Alaska IS Growing… More of Our Own Food!!

September 17, 2011

Tomatoes grown in Bristol Bay

Gardening or farming in Bristol Bay seems to be taking off again with gusto! If you ask around  you find   almost everyone gardened until relatively recently. Many things point to the high salmon prices of the 80’s as the main mover but sometime, somehow, the desire and then the skill went away.

 Growing your own food has taken off again for a variety of reasons, amongst them high cost  and generally low  quality of produce which has to be shipped in,  coupled with lots of new ideas about how-to-grow from the lower 48 figure prominently.

A variety of projects are assisting the effort from grants to help pay for high tunnels, to a ‘growers school’, to tours and cooking classes. In Dillingham, for the second year, a Gardening Symposium will be held later this week. Everything from canning to helping figure out what ails your plants will be covered.

All summer all over Alaska many have been taking part in Alaska Growers School in variety of ways. From study at your own pace, conference calls , and  webinars people have been learning the basics of gardening from botany to how-to specifics for growing in the various part of Alaska. The first group of students then gathered in Fairbanks for some hands-on skill building. Over 40 of us from 26 different villages, a number in the Bristol Bay area, ended up with a wealth of knowledge backed up by great handouts and links to keep us going.

Ugashik's Community Greenhouse

Some villages, like Igiugig, have community greenhouses and outside garden plots to help residents get into the mood to grow more of their own food. Some residents and villages have those who grow for personal use but some are also looking at supplying near-by lodges with produce.

Learning about venting! This is easy to do in Alaska in early spring!

In touring and talking to a number of participants it’s obvious there is a learning curve. Many community operations are ‘staffed’ by volunteers and a number of issues have arisen, from learning how quickly the houses can warm up in the spring,  easily over 100 degrees as early as May, to the onset of gray mold or botrytis in those with circulation issues.  Hopefully, as these issues have come up, they are identified and solutions have been worked out so the efforts of many can be built upon.

In the past, weeds and the spreading of those darn things, has caused some villagers to give up after a few years of trying but hopefully as more people learn how to deal with these issues they will give producing their own food a try again.

Locally grown strawberries

Everyone should be able to enjoy a fresh bowl of greens, berries or veggies from their backyards if they so desire.

Flying Wild Alaska-Second Season Premieres Nov 4

September 12, 2011

We got a quick tip from a reader today that they have confirmed that the second season of Flying Wild Alaska will start airing on Nov 4 on the Discovery Channel.

Those of you, like us,  who have enjoyed this window into areas of Alaska seldom showcased will get to see more via the Tweto family and their airline company Era Alaska. Getting a chance to view what many feel is a pretty darn realistic side of what we live with just about each time we travel in ‘bush’ Alaska seems to have been popular with a wide spectrum of the viewing public.

According to the posting on the Alaska Film Office website the show has also filed for a tax credit that the state offers to promote more filming in Alaska. According to the application the show created what was equal to two full time jobs for a period of 60 days.

The production reported $1,182,247 in Alaska spending. It’ll get more than one-third of that money back from the state in the form of tax credits totaling $398,917.

Principal photography on season one of the Bush pilot reality show lasted 60 days and the project created the equivalent of two full-time jobs, according to the application.

With the variety of aircraft they use and places they serve it appears the second season leaves plenty of room for more glimpses of life in Alaska.