Kenai backs public review of Pebble mine project

Posted: Sunday, June 24, 2007

A resolution supporting Northern Dynasty’s Pebble Mine project drew opposition from a half dozen people attending Wednesday’s Kenai City Council meeting, causing the council to tweak the wording a bit before passing the measure.

In its original form, the resolution demonstrated the city’s support of “the development of a copper, gold and molybdenum mine at the Pebble Porphyry Prospect northwest of Lake Iliamna.”

Despite the repeated insistence by Councilman Rick Ross that a substitute version of the resolution was intended to show the city supports only advancing the project to “the public review and hearing process,” those objecting said they felt the wording indicated the city is in support of the huge mine project.

“My first choice would be to kill both proposed resolutions,” said Gerald Brookman of Kenai.

“This was just sprung on the public Monday. This is a big, big issue,” he said. “Give us at least a month.”

Mayor Pat Porter told Brookman the resolution basically moves the proposed mining project to the public process.

“I’m against the whole open-pit process,” said Alan Van Horn. “I’ve seen what it’s done to Colorado.

“It’s going to poison and destroy the streams,” he said.

Attending the council meeting was Sen. Tom Wagoner, who said he is in favor of the resolution, chiefly because the Pebble project stands to create jobs for two generations of Alaskans.

“The state of Alaska has the most rigid (permitting) process for open pit and hard rock mining,” Wagoner said.

“The land Pebble is on was recognized by the state as land suitable for mineral development,” he said.

“People say salmon won’t spawn in those streams (after mining begins). Salmon ... red salmon don’t spawn in streams. They spawn in lakes,” Wagoner said.

Visiting from Pedro Bay on Iliamna Lake, George Jacko said, “As things have moved forward, most folks in that region are opposed to this project.

“The entire Bristol Bay watershed would be affected,” he said. “We’re extremely concerned about the impact on Bristol Bay.”

Nikiski resident Janice Chumley expressed surprise that the city of Kenai would support a project with so much ongoing debate. Chumley earlier made a presentation on invasive weeds to the council as a research technician with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service.

She said she felt it would be “wise to get all sides (of the Pebble mine controversy) presented.”

The mayor again stated that the city is only asking that the public process go forward.

Alan Poynor said he believes it would be premature for the city council to say it wants the process to move forward without appearing to be in favor of the project moving forward.

“The council would be well advised to just wait awhile,” Poynor said.

Councilman Bob Molloy said he received three e-mail messages, all in opposition to the council’s resolution.

“The resolution is to clear away some of the smoke ... to push it through to the public review and hearing process,” said Ross. “This does not come out as the city endorsing this project.”

Councilman Mike Boyle said he questioned the timing of the city’s resolution, if for no other reason than creating the perception that the city supports the mining project.

Councilwoman Linda Swarner offered an amendment saying the council “supports the permitting process” for the project.

Her amendment was approved unanimously.

The amended resolution received some “no” votes, but passed 5-2.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek@peninsulaclarion.com.



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