Ninilchik Native Association sketchy about future pork plans

Pork proposal tries again

Posted: Monday, April 01, 2002

More information has arisen about plans to push pork purveyance on the Kenai Peninsula, as Ninilchik Native Association Inc. representatives spoke up to place some distance between their organization and the Alaska Pork Project Inc.

Also, Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority identified a previous unsuccessful feasibility study with a similar project.

At a March 21 public forum, Dick Metteer, Alaska Pork Project president, named Ninilchik Native land near Deep Creek and Caribou Hills as a location being considered for his group's proposal to farm more than 600,000 hogs. He said contact had been made with the Native association regarding plans for more than 24,000 acres of land.

Gary Jackinsky, NNAI vice president, said the association was approached last spring, but was sketchy about the response given to Metteer.

"We didn't really say no; we didn't really say yes," Jackinsky said. "It didn't look like a very good deal to us. We decided it was too many questions left unanswered."

In a letter to the editor, dated Thursday, NNAI secretary and treasurer Ray Bouwens said the idea was declined.

"As with all proposals, the board and management of NNAI carefully reviewed and thoroughly discussed this proposal," Bouwens wrote.

"The board elected not to pursue this proposal, as the potential of environmental impacts outweighed the potential for economic growth at this time."

Bouwens declined comment, but Jackinsky said the association had a responsibility to the land to fulfill.

"We are stewards of the land there, and we have to watch the environmental problems that might pop up," he said. "We're really not ready to handle that."

Metteer said, however, he was still offered a window of opportunity from NNAI CEO David Duffy, pending favorable results from a feasibility study.

"Mr. Duffy said, 'That's fine, when your feasibility study is done, go ahead and bring it back,'" Metteer said.

In 1993, while working as a consultant for Danish meat company Globe Meat Technology Inc., Metteer was unable to get an early incarnation of the project past AIDEA.

Jim McMillan, AIDEA deputy director of credit, said his agency entered into a cost reimbursement agreement with Globe to do a pre-feasibility study for bringing a pork farming operation to Alaska.

McMillan, who was not with AIDEA at the time, said the terms of the deal stated the agency would front expenses, not to exceed $236,000, for the prestudy. If AIDEA found the project feasible, the expenses would be rolled into the loan to pay for the entire project. Otherwise, Globe would have to pay the state back for the prestudy.

But, McMillan said, AIDEA determined the project was not feasible and elected not to make a payment. Already having assigned contract work, Globe submitted a bill for $219,199.

"AIDEA was billed for the cost incurred up to the point of the 'not feasible' decision," McMillan said. "We declined to pay because there were changes AIDEA suggested that the company was not willing to make."

He did not, however, disclose what those changes were. He said the agency decided there was no need to pay for a nonfeasible project.

"When the first billing came in, it was already determined not to pay it because the (money) would have to be reimbursed anyway," McMillan said.

Anchorage attorney Walter Featherly said AIDEA agreed to reimburse the developers for the cost of $75,000.

"AIDEA wouldn't have paid if they didn't believe that they had some responsibility," he said.

Featherly said Metteer was a key proponent in the previous deal, but said he did not believe Metteer's involvement would hurt any chances for the current push for Alaska pig farming.

"There's no question that Dick was the prime mover behind that," he said. "Dick is the one who contacted Globe in the first place and supplied them with the information. And there's no question that AIDEA was interested.

"It was my idea to have AIDEA administer the (new) study on behalf of the Kenai Peninsula Borough," Featherly continued. "They would contract to have the study done. I asked Jim McMillan if previous dealings would hurt Dick's chances, and he said he didn't believe so.

"Based on that conversation with Jim, I got back to Dick and suggested that he move forward."

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