Letters to the Editor

Posted: Thursday, June 21, 2001

Pressure of sport fishing putting Kasilof River in same boat as Kenai

This letter is in response to all the ridiculous letters I have read from Don Johnson slamming the commercial fishing industry. Mr. Johnson apparently thinks that all salmon in Alaska should be for sport.

Has anyone been down to the Kasilof River lately? With boat numbers pushing 100 per day, it is enough to make a person sick. Thank God for hatchery fish or the Kasilof would be just like the Kenai -- dead!

I do know one thing for sure, if the fishing was as slow on any day in the month of July as it has been this month, all fingers would be pointing at the commercial fishermen. It is funny that you do not hear a peep from all these great Kenai river warriors as to why the fishing is so poor in the Kenai.

Another example is the Deep Creek salt water troll fishery. I suppose the commercial fishermen caught all those kings, too. Thank God for halibut or there would not be much to fish for.

When I see all these boats and trucks at the Kasilof boat ramp with these stickers that say Kenai River Professional Sport Fishing Association, I have to laugh. Look at what river they are fishing. It is unfortunate that the Kasilof has become just like the Kenai, a three ring circus with a bunch of people that do not have a clue as to what the word "professional" means.

So, Mr. Johnson, the next time you get ready to write one of your foolish letters about how great massive sportfishing is and how evil commercial fishing is, I recommend you go to the Russian River, pick up Les Palmer on the way, and go fish in your circus. Maybe Les can get you a job writing letters with him in the Friday paper. Or better yet, you can probably get a job driving a taxi cab with another great Kenai river warrior, Jeff Webster. Good luck either way.

John Lesterson, Fishing guide Sterling

Assembly ordinance for vote on prison not same as initiative

Our Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly leaders, who have been vigorously promoting their publicly funded private prison project, have finally deemed a vote of the people appropriate.

In an effort to attempt to sidetrack our successful initiative effort, Mr. Navarre and Mr. Popp have proposed an ordinance to put their pet project to a vote of the people. Their actions are too little, too late and simply leave the door open for more borough shenanigans at the expense of the taxpayer.

After granting $200,000 of our borough revenues to the private prison promoters, holding public meetings to discuss the location of their new prison, advertising to hire a prison project director and spending undisclosed sums for several political junkets to Juneau, the leadership of the borough has finally realized that the citizens must now have a voice in this important decision.

This action should have been carried out initially, before wasting our funds for a project that primarily benefits special interests and would negatively affect the Kenai Peninsula forever. Their proposed ordinance is nothing more than damage control and would leave the door open for more of the same.

In their proposed ordinance they claim, "It is doubtful that the initiative petitioners would meet the time deadline necessary to place their question on the ballot for the regular Oct. 2, 2001 ballot." This is an erroneous assumption. I already hold in excess of 10 percent of the required signatures and have had access to the ballot packages less than one week. We have over 20 ordinance cosponsors who haven't yet begun to turn in completed packages. We will have no difficulty getting the required signatures within the limited time available. Had the borough not obstructed our progress at every possible opportunity, we wouldn't be close to the deadline. Borough officials have used many tactics to delay our progress. Now the private prison proponents are claiming to promote this ordinance in order to expedite a vote from the people.

In the borough ordinance they also claim, "If the borough assembly adopts substantially the same measure as is on the initiative, the petition is void and may not be placed before the voters." While this statement is true, I do not believe that their proposed ordinance is substantially similar.

Their ordinance allows a vote by the people to stop this project, which was created by Rep. Chenault's House Bill 149 and promoted by the borough at great expense to the borough taxpayer. Our ballot initiative prohibits any and all private for-profit prison operations within the Kenai Peninsula Borough. No future wasted taxpayer expenditures for the benefit of private prison profiteers. No more battles against our own borough, which spends our money against us, for its own speculative ventures.

Our group has and will fight the borough to eliminate the possibility of any private for-profit prison located anywhere on the Kenai Peninsula any time in the future. Our borough government should not finance and be responsible for another operator's private prison business. Borough ordinance 2001-23 is a smoke screen that attempts to hide the ugly truth of business as usual involving special interest politics.

I urge our citizens not to buy into this and our assembly members not to interfere with the will of their electorate. Do not interfere with our Alaska right to this ballot initiative!

James Price Peninsula Citizens Against Private Prisons

(Formerly Citizens for a Private Prison-Free Peninsula)

State needs to be as tough on oil industry as it is on other polluters

Tony Knowles and the Legislature get tough on the cruise industry, salmon processors face EPA scrutiny on NPDES permitted waste streams, shout the headlines. Cross Timbers waste discharge pipeline corrodes, creates sheen in inlet, mentions a little blurb.

If the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the governor, and the federal Environmental Protection Agency really cared about Alaska's water quality instead of public relations, they would solve the problem by getting rid of mixing zones for NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) waste streams and make them meet existing state water quality standards. The only thing mixing zones dilute are state water quality standards.

Sen. Jerry Ward stated recently that by making tougher discharge standards for the cruise ship industry the state seems to be holding them to different standards than other industries' waste streams. While I have no sympathy for the cruise ship industry's wanton disregard for state water quality, I do agree that other industries' wastes are looked at with greater fanfare than the oil industry's NPDES permitted waste streams into Cook Inlet.

In a May interview, the Region 10 EPA administrator Bub Loiselle says it's time to reexamine waste streams from seafood processors who dump millions of pounds of seafood waste in a localized area year after year. He states that in his opinion innovative ways for dealing with seafood wastes have not been a high priority in the Alaska seafood industry for many years -- "it would be interesting to see how much money from gross or net profits has been set aside for environmental waste discharge improvements or innovative alternatives to strictly depositing the waste stream on the seafloor."

Good point, Mr. Loiselle. When are you going to ask the oil industry the same questions? When EPA allows the industry to save millions of dollars by exempting their process water wastes from hazardous waste regulation and never requires new technology for recycling, never plans to stop free dumping of wastes in Cook Inlet, how do you expect business as usual to change?

Cross Timbers' pipeline just exposed the reality of process water: It isn't a one-time spill, it's a legalized daily spill. Process waters create a oily sheen because there is still oil left in it as well as carcinogens such as PAHs, a group of polyaromatic hydrocarbons.

Gary Eiceman, a research and chemistry professor from New Mexico State University, had this to say about oil process waters: "Produced water is the single most chemically complex substance I have ever encountered; it is often a highly toxic and hazardous mix of organic chemical compounds."

A 1985 EPA study found considerable quantities of priority pollutants, including benzene, methylbenzene, toluene, phenol and naphthalene as well as heavy metals such as chromium, lead, nickel and zinc, almost universally present in produced water. Now that's a waste stream to get tougher on.

Betty Whittenberg, Soldotna

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