Esperanza denied dock space in Ketchikan

Posted: Sunday, August 03, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) A Greenpeace ship heading to protest timber issues in Southeast Alaska has hit a bureaucratic storm with the former logging town of Ketchikan.

The environmental group will not be able to dock in the Ketchikan port when it arrives next week, city officials said.

''We just don't have the room to accommodate them for the duration of the stay they want,'' city manager Karl Amylon said Friday.

Greenpeace is expected to arrive in Ketchikan Wednesday as part of a cruise up the Inside Passage highlighting concerns over large scale logging within the Tongass National Forest.

The city's decision means the group must either dock at private facility away from the downtown area or drop anchor in the Tongass Narrows. Both lessen the visibility of Greenpeace.

''I think it's politically motivated,'' said Greenpeace spokesman Jeremy Paster. ''In a way it's an act of censorship, not wanting a Greenpeace ship in a high profile (spot) downtown.''

Greenpeace plans to spend a week in Ketchikan, a town of about 8,000 people and the site of a former pulp mill.

Greenpeace planed to hold walk-on tours of its ship, Esperanza, and promote its views against timber policies backed by President Bush.

The Bush administration proposed excluding portions of Chugach National Forest and the 16.8 million-acre Tongass from Clinton-era rules limiting logging and roadbuilding.

City officials earlier told Greenpeace it could tie up at the public dock in downtown Ketchikan, but later reversed that decision out of security concerns, according to a fax.

But the city is concerned about the availability of dock space during the busy summer tourism season and not security, Amylon said.

''We're just not able to handle it. We suggested alternative berthing locations within the community,'' Amylon said.

The environmental group has a reputation for staging aggressive protests such as blockades meant to obstruct some businesses. But a Greenpeace spokesman said no such plans are in the works for Alaska.

Its unclear what sort of reception awaits the environmental group in Ketchikan, which is known as one of the most pro-development communities in Southeast Alaska.

''We understand Ketchikan does historically have strong ties to logging,'' Paster said. ''I would hope that people would be willing to come aboard and have a dialogue about (the Tongass).''

The Forest Service had conducted protest briefings with police in some of the local communities that Greenpeace plans to visit. The Forest Service, Coast Guard and Alaska State Troopers are prepared to respond to any emergency, said Forest Service spokesman Ray Massey.

''There has been a Unified Command set up to make sure, basically, all the laws and everyone's rights are protected during Greenpeace's visit in Southeast,'' Massey said.

There have been no specific threats made to Greenpeace, but law enforcement officials are remaining vigilant, Massey said.

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