What others say: Cooperation across boundaries

It’s not always necessary to try and reinvent the wheel when solving a difficult or complex problem. Sometimes, you just need to look around and find out what solutions have worked for others facing the same conundrum.

This approach to problem solving is one of the reasons the Juneau World Affairs Council chose to focus on British Columbia and the Yukon during a series of forums held at the University of Alaska Southeast’s campus this week.

JWAC President Jim Clark billed the forum as not only an opportunity for Juneauites to get reacquainted with their neighbors, but also as an opportunity to share ideas and experiences when it comes to issues affecting our region, such as education, natural resource management and industry, to name a few.

The similarities between Juneau and western Canada are abundant. We both have similar renewable and nonrenewable resources that need managing, Native issues dealing with subsistence that often are at the forefront of conversations when it comes to wildlife management, and we both are home to small, isolated communities that share similar weather and the need for affordable energy. In short, we’re not as different as one might think.

The forum was about more than sharing ideas, however. A key element of the forum was to create a cooperative bridge between our culture and theirs through conversations that, hopefully, will lead to better policy and practices on both sides. This is important for Southeast Alaskans for a number of reasons.

It wasn’t that long ago, in 2010 to be exact, when our state government issued a letter to British Columbia officials in referencing one of their mines that was dispensing acidic mine drainage into the Taku Inlet, one of our most prized and productive salmon fisheries. To our knowledge the state never heard back from our Canadian neighbors.

The company that once ran the Tulsequah Chief Mine went bankrupt in 2009, followed by the removal of the wastewater treatment plant that prevented sulfuric acid from leaching heavy metals such as zinc, copper, cadmium and arsenic into the river. The hazardous elements flowed down the Taku River, eventually emptying into our waterways.

Current mine owner Chieftain restarted the water treatment facility in 2011 only to discontinue it a year later because of budget constraints, leaving the mine in non-compliance with Canada’s Waste Water Discharge Permit. Once again, dangerous minerals were being unleashed into our waterways.

Concerns have been voiced by several environmental groups that the proposed Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell mine near Ketchikan, which is currently undergoing permitting in British Columbia, could do the same to our ecosystems. The KSM mine has the potential to be one of the largest mines in the world. That also means that if not managed properly, it could be one of the most environmentally destructive, as well. A story in Friday’s Empire reported that the KSM mine would need to treat nearly 119,000 gallons of water per minute. That water will end up in the Unuk River. Once in the river, we all know where the treated water will end up: in Southeast Alaska streams, rivers and tributaries.

There hasn’t always been an open dialogue between Alaska and Canada, but that doesn’t have to be the way we continue to do business with our neighbor. The Juneau World Affairs Forum is an opportunity for those of us in Southeast Alaska and western Canada to not only learn from one another, but also an opportunity to learn and work together with one another on issues that will affect us both. That’s what the Juneau World Affairs Council is trying to do, and we commend them for it. Through cooperation and a mutual understanding we can forge a better future for everyone.

— Juneau Empire,

Oct. 20


What others say: Obama’s legacy a mixed one

President Barack Obama leaves office Friday after eight years as the most consequential Democrat to occupy the White House since Lyndon Johnson. And unlike that Texan, whose presidency was born in tragedy and ended in failure, Obama will not have the ghost of the Vietnam War haunting his days and eating his conscience as LBJ did all the remaining days of his life.

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Op-ed: Trump won the news conference

Donald Trump should do press conferences more often. Not for the country’s sake, certainly not for the media’s sake, but for his. He really shouldn’t have waited 167-plus days to hold one, because the man gives great sound bite. Although I’ve participated in probably thousands of these staged encounters as a reporter, they’re not my favorite way of getting news — you almost never get any. The guy at the podium controls the proceeding. He can get his message out with little challenge from the assembled journalists who are limited to a question and a follow-up, maybe. Politicians can bob and weave through that without any of us landing a blow. And that’s our job: to penetrate the canned responses to their version of the controversy du jour and get at whatever truth they are hiding. Besides, Trump — who uses contempt for the media as a weapon, his preferred way to discredit reporting that displeases him —has a wonderful forum to do that. At the very least he should hold these confrontations as a supplement to his Twitter tirades. And frequently. It’s his opportunity to hold the media hostage as they cover live his rain of abuse on them.

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Good luck in Juneau

The 30th Alaska Legislature gavels in on Tuesday, and we’d like to take a moment to wish our Kenai Peninsula legislators good luck over the coming months in Juneau.

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Ready to weather the storm

If there’s a bright spot in the recent headlines regarding Alaska’s economy, it’s this: on the Kenai Peninsula, the bad news isn’t nearly as bad as it could be.

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