Letters to the Editor

Posted: Friday, November 22, 2002

Ward should not try to sidestep will of people by challenging vote

It is unfortunate, but utterly predictable that Jerry Ward would not accept the will of the people and is trying to stay in office using attorneys and frivolous maneuvering.

Mr. Ward, what part of "no" don't you understand? You lost, and Tom Wagoner won the collective vote of the electorate. Had we wished to have you in office, you would have collected more votes than Mr. Wagoner.

To attempt to change the result by sidestepping the electorate will only serve to further damage your already pathetic reputation on the Kenai Peninsula.

If you have aspirations to elected office it would be a wiser move to sell your "residence" in Nikiski and run as a resident of the Anchorage area in which you live.

Barry Thomson, Kenai

Sports, other activities should be cut before increasing class sizes

Monday night, the Kenai Peninsula Borough school board voted, almost unanimously, to increase the number of kids in the classroom. The only board member to oppose increasing the classroom sizes was Margaret Gilman, and I applaud her for standing up against this serious attack on our classrooms. The board did this as a last-minute act of desperation to save money. I went to testify against increasing classroom sizes, but Mr. Joe Arness skidded so fast over this agenda item that before I realized what they were talking about, they had closed the comment period. The whole way this was handled seemed very quick and underhanded to me.

If there is truly no money, and the financial forecast is as gloomy as the school district predicts, then it is time to make the tough choices of giving up the sports and extra-curricular activities the school district provides. There are a lot of programs that could and should be eliminated before we start stacking the classroom full of kids.

I know that would be a very unpopular discussion for the school board members to bring to the public's attention. The research, however, is very clear; the lower the number of students in the classroom, the higher the achievement levels.

We all know this simple fact, yet the school board took the easy approach and tried to slip this one past the public. Providing the best classroom experience is critical to a student's success.

Classroom sizes should receive priority protection! It is a disgrace to our school district that this decision was made with such callous disregard for the impact it will have on the classroom experience for our children!

Natasha Ala Johnson, Parent, PTA vice president, Sears Elementary

While natural gas supply dwindles, borough, state officials fiddle

Amazing! The Kenai Peninsula Borough government and the state may finally realize that there is a natural gas supply problem in Southcentral Alaska. It is old news to me.

While I do not always like to tell people I told you so, now I will. In two tries for the assembly and in the letters column of this newspaper, I have been pointing out the problem for 20 years, and I put forth a solution to extend the number of years to make gas supply last longer. The information has been available for others to see, but it seemed that all were blind to it.

And of course, my analysis was mine. It appears that our elected borough and state officials over the years were only willing to consider what they thought up.

Starting in 1982, in an assembly run, I pointed out that it would be a major help to get the Beluga coal fields developed if the mining company had a guaranteed first customer. What customer? A coal-fired electrical generating plant. It could be built at Nikiski with coal supplied by a slurry pipeline.

Instead, our elected officials all got hot and bothered over Bradley Lake. Of course, a coal-fired plant could have been easily added to, but Bradley is as big as it will ever be.

Using coal to generate electricity would have replaced natural gas generated electricity, thus extending the lifetime of the available gas supplies.

Every time an article appeared in this newspaper about potential uses of Alaska coal or natural gas supplies, I wrote another letter. When Enstar opposed Phillips getting an extension to export LNG, I wrote another letter

pointing out the advantages of coal generation.

When a small article appeared in this newspaper about a new process and a large investment to convert low BTU Alaska coal to a fuel oil like fuel, another letter again pointed out the advantages of replacing natural gas with coal to generate electricity. There were other letters over the years.

The result was always the same -- animal control got the attention. We're still spending much time and money chasing the fairy tale of a natural gas pipeline from Prudhoe to Kenai.

Now our backs are against the wall. A 10- year supply, and Unocal is cutting Agrium's gas supply. What will our elected borough and state officials do?

Don't be surprised to see them avoid dealing with reality while wasting their time on more trivial issues.

William J. Phillips, Kenai

Environmentalists should not be branded as enemies of Alaskans

In the recent election campaigns, some people who are concerned about protecting and preserving our environment seemingly have been branded enemies of Alaska. This seems strange because some of the great attractions of Alaska, both for tourists and residents, are our surroundings.

They include the grandeur of Alaska's mountains, ice fields and glaciers, its abundant and diverse wildlife, its lakes and streams of many colors, its incredible landscapes of native flora, tundra, rain forests, rugged peaks and coastlines, not to mention the myriad opportunities it offers for sightseeing, fishing and hunting.

It may seem a rhetorical question but why does tourism bring Alaska its third highest annual revenues (after oil and "Uncle Ted")? I doubt that most tourists are attracted to this great state to see our pretty faces! They most likely come to see and admire one of the least spoiled (by people -- so far) places on the planet.

Many lifelong Alaskans take Alaska's mostly untouched environment for granted, maybe believing it is so vast that it really cannot be diminished. There was a time just 40 to 50 years ago when most people in the world thought the same thing about the oceans. To repeat, only 40 to 50 years ago.

In that time, through greed and ignorance, we have seen the demise of many ocean and anadromous commercial fisheries and the loss of much vital ocean habitat for marine life, not to mention measurable toxic contamination of the waters and marine life, too.

Rain forests and wildlife species are disappearing worldwide at an accelerating rate to accommodate development for the world's population growth while toxic chemical contamination of our lands, streams and aquifers -- all of which eventually flow to the seas and oceans -- continues at an alarming pace.

Tourists from all over the world come to Alaska to experience a more pristine (compared to where they live) part of the world. And some people, not out of maliciousness, but of ignorance, inadvertently damage this pristine environment in their excitement to see and do "it" all in the short time of their visit. Of course, there are those who have little or no respect or appreciation for Alaska's natural wonders but I believe they are in the minority.

This may not be true for the commercial exploiter-developer whose bottom line is profit, sometimes at any cost to the development's surroundings. Developers call environmentalists greenies, tree huggers, and-or various expletives.

An environmentalist's motives may not agree with everyone's philosophy, but many of their actions, regarding irresponsible commercial exploitation and development, are based on past environmental insults incurred, and lack of restoration and cleanup elsewhere. Here, I'm reminded of then-U.S. Ambas-sador to the United Nations Jean Kirkpatrick's "Why Do We Choose to Disbelieve History?" in Government Executive Magazine, circa 1980.

If Alaskans really want the forest clear-cutting of Oregon and Washington and Brazil; the land and stream and coastal toxic contamination (and fish kills) of North Carolina and parts of New England; the mine tailings contamination and sterilization of some Idaho and Montana and Tasmanian streams; the loss of coastal fisheries off Oregon, California and New England, then give the Alaska developer carte blanche to harvest the rich natural resources of Alaska for a relatively small annual fee, no regulatory oversight, and with no legal responsibility to clean up the mess -- to help the profit margin.

Maybe the state would even bear the cost of providing access (roads, ports and railroads) to these resources as incentives for profitable development?

There should be legal criteria for any large-scale commercial exploration or development in Alaska, including:

1. Those projects should provide year-round jobs for Alaska residents. Alaska's timber should be processed in Alaska for use in Alaska rather than being just cut and shipped overseas for processing, leaving Alaskans out of work and having to "import" many second rate building materials from the Lower 48;

2. Alaska's oil and gas resources should benefit Alaskans or, at least, the United States. Oil should be refined in Alaska to the extent the products are needed here and, if the U.S. is truly in an energy crunch, Alaska oil products should not be exported outside the U.S.;

3. Something must be done to protect Alaska's fisheries from continuing commercial exploitation by those who have no real stake in Alaska's future. A big first step would be to make bycatch in the haddock (or any other) fishery part of the harvester's quota, the fish should be processed here, and enough Alaska residents (stakeholders) should be provided observer jobs (paid by the harvester) to assure that the bycatch rule is followed;

4. All contracts with the state of Alaska for the commercial exploration or harvest of any of Alaska's natural resources should have legally binding clauses for restoration of any disturbed natural habitats caused by the developer-explorer-harvester -- with penalties if not done in a timely manner.

Such legal requirements would provide upfront incentives to the contractor for care and stewardship of our great state's lands and waters to keep them attractive to the future tourist, our third most important annual revenue source.

On reflection, the reader may decide the environmentalist is the enemy of irresponsible exploiters or developers of our state's lands and-or natural resources but hardly an enemy of Alaskans!

Richard Hahn, Soldotna

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