Initiatives meant to better the state

Letter to the Editor

Posted: Friday, March 21, 2008

Here we go again. Recently, in a "What others say column," the Clarion reprinted an editorial from the Ketchikan Daily News filled with extreme, and quite frankly, false information about the Alaska Clean Water Initiatives.

First they say these initiatives would prohibit existing mines from renewing permits, when clearly the initiatives apply only to new large scale mines whose footprint exceeds 640 acres.

The grandfather clause in the initiatives state: "does not apply to existing large scale metallic-mineral mining operations that have received all federal, state and local permits."

Also touted in this editorial is the amount of money large-scale mining pays in royalties. What most people do not know, is that when compared to the oil and gas industries, the amount is miniscule and barely pays its way against what the state must pay out in oversight. Oil and gas pays to the state almost 25 percent of the market value of what is extracted, while large-scale hard rock mining pays less than 1 percent. Try cleaning up a toxic waste disaster with the remains of that.

What may be the most disconcerting about this attack, however, is they insinuate that those Alaskans standing out in the cold collecting signatures were somehow dishonest about what the initiatives said. In the local area we had many longtime Alaskans, children of local homesteaders and several lifelong residents who grew up hunting, fishing and trapping, here and across the inlet, who believed wholeheartedly in what they were doing and dedicated their time simply out of their concern for the future of our state.

There are two initiatives. Please, go online and read them for yourselves. Clean Water III, the less restrictive of the two, which was recently cleared for this fall's ballot, is a completely innocuous document that does little more than attempt to hold state standards for clean water to a reasonable level by barring the release of toxic pollutants that adversely affect human health or salmon propagation. It also bans the storing or disposing of mining waste in a way that may cause release of toxic pollution. These are the same standards the mining companies say they will maintain. All this does, is hold them to their promises.

Finally, they say the initiatives are reminiscent of the cruise ship tax initiative brought up to the detriment of the tourism industry. How was the tourism industry negatively impacted? Are there fewer cruise ships? This initiative did nothing but benefit the people of Alaska, the same way the clean water initiatives will benefit us, by protecting our reputation and our still intact and clean waterways.

I do not believe anyone in our state wants to drink arsenic, mercury or cyanide, nor do they want to see our salmon runs depleted by chemicals dumped into our streams.

The Clean Water Initiatives are designed to prevent this from happening. They are not an attempt to curtail mining, nor are they a mining shutdown initiative, as some extremists would have us believe.

Clark G. Whitney Jr.


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