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SEACC requests DEC terminate Pothole Storage Permit

Posted by Buck Lindekugel at Oct 17, 2012 10:05 AM |
Recently, it has become clear that the Forest Service let the Alaska DEC rely on false and inadequate information with regard to the a key permit for log storage in the Pothole, a sensitive crabbing area. In response, we are asking for termination and review of these permits.

On October 5, 2012, Earthjustice submitted a letter to DEC Commissioner Hartig on SEACC’s behalf that requests the Commissioner to terminate the Pothole log storage authorization granted to the Forest Service for the recently approved Tonka timber sale.   After reviewing DEC’s record for the permit, as well as the Forest Service’s record for the Tonka timber sale, it became apparent that the Forest Service had undermined the integrity of the DEC permitting process by letting DEC rely on information that the Forest Service knew to be false or misleading, failed to correct the record, and omitted other crucial, relevant information.

For decades, logging on the Tongass has stirred deep emotions.  A lack of public agreement over how to manage our largest National Forest exacerbates these feelings.   One reason for this lack of consensus is the way timber sales mix private and public interests, interests which often conflict.   Those who make money off a timber sale directly or use affected forest and marine resources to support their own livelihoods have a direct personal stake in the outcome.  Others reflect more of the public character of the Tongass and can be motivated by a sense of fair play, shared access and use, conservation desires, and apprehension about impacts of climate change on the forest.   None of these motivations are wrong, but they can hamper a person’s willingness to listen or frustrate opportunities for satisfying shared needs.

Given the tensions created by this lack of a shared vision, the last thing we need are actions, whether intentional or merely sloppy, that unnecessarily stoke conflict between users of public resources – in the case of the Tonka timber sale and the Pothole in-water log storage area, between loggers and crab fishermen.

Following our review of the state’s Pothole record, and thanks to records unearthed in the Tonka planning record by committed forest activists, we discovered that the Forest Service hid the ball from DEC by:

  • Claiming that barging doubled the cost of log transport from the sale area to Klawock when it only increased the cost by 5%;
  • Telling DEC “there is no available upland storage anywhere on the road system” after it had chosen to develop a 5-acre log sort yard as part of this timber sale project;
    • Leaving DEC to rely on an assertion by a project proponent at a public hearing that 1-1½ billion board feet of logs were stored at the Pothole when the Forest Service’s best estimation was that a maximum volume of somewhere between 150 and 250 million board feet had ever been stored in the Pothole.

    For these reasons, SEACC requested that the DEC Commissioner terminate the Pothole storage permit.

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