State changes view on Adak incorporation

Posted: Thursday, April 20, 2000

UNALASKA (AP) -- A state agency has changed its position on a plan to establish a local government at Adak, provided that a Native regional corporation agree to assume environmmental liability if the city fails.

The April 6 final report by the Department of Community and Economic Development reverses a preliminary warning that approving city status for the former Navy base in the western Aleutians could ''saddle the state of Alaska with liability for a ghost town located on a Superfund site.''

''We believe we found a potential solution to that issue,'' said Pat Poland, director of the Division of Municipal and Regional Assistance. ''Without that, I think we'd still be reluctant to recommend incorporation.''

The state agency has recommended to the Local Boundary Commission that, as a condition of approving the City of Adak, the Aleut Corp. agree to assume environmental and other liability should Adak's city government fail.

''If the need arises, we want to have that safeguard,'' said Dan Bockhorst, who works on Local Boundary Commission issues for the agency.

The Local Boundary Commission has scheduled a public hearing on incorporation in Adak on April 28. It then has 90 days to decide whether to allow residents to vote on incorporation.

Vincent Tutiakoff, chairman of the Aleut Corp., said Wednesday that any pledge to assume liability at Adak must be made by the corporation's directors. The board will consider the state's recommendation at a meeting in Anchorage next month, he said.

Agafon Krukoff, a member of the Adak Community Council, complained of unfair treatment on the liability issue.

''How could any community not add liability to the state if it failed?'' Krukoff said. ''Every community has the potential to fail.''

But Poland said Adak, about 1,100 miles southwest of Anchorage, is different because of the size of the facilities involved and its lack of a traditional community.

The Aleut Corp. hopes to convert the former military installation into a viable civilian community. It is seeking congressional approval to trade military property for land the regional Native corporation owns near a wildlife refuge.

While changing its mind on supporting city status, the state made other recommendations that didn't line up with what Adak boosters are seeking.

The final report recommends that the city cover just 72 square miles of land and ocean, about a tenth of the area sought in the Adak Community Council's incorporation petition.

The council asked to incorporate the entire island of 273 square miles, plus another 403 square miles of state water, to be able to collect taxes on frozen fish transferred from factory trawlers to freighters in the island's remote bays.

A city comprising the entire island is also opposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge occupies the majority of Adak Island.

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