Prince William SOUNDKEEPER®

Clean Water   Healthy Fisheries   Strong Communities

One foot in front of the other

09 Feb 2016 8:17 PM | Kate McLaughlin (Administrator)

I have been able to go for a jog along Orca Inlet several times over the past few months without having to worry about trashing myself on ice.  40 degrees in February?  This is the new norm? 

I haven’t been a runner for long.  So It’s not about how hard or how fast I can run, it’s more about maintaining and sustaining.   I pant down the road getting my recommended allowance of heart, lung and butt workout, and absorb the flow of water and shore moving alongside of me.   The merganzers and cormorants ride the outflowing tide, diving and reappearing with a head shake and a murmur.  I note the occasional matted tumble of black and white feathers and bones left on rocky boulders and underneath overhanging spruce limbs.  The reminder that one’s famine, the common murre die off that has been occurring all along the North Pacific Coast is another’s boom; a feast for bald eagles, ravens and other scavengers partaking of the starved animals and floating carcasses found.  The warmth that is allowing my run in February is more than likely fueling the ecosystem change that is stressing these birds.

Orca Lodge is at the end of the road.  If certain interests have their way, there will be an extension to this road going past the lodge, out to Shephard Point.  The proposed purpose is to put a deep water dock to house oil spill/emergency response gear.  The premise sounds good, but on further scrutiny, we find that building miles of road along this steep, avalanche prone coastline, away from town, potentially disturbing estuary and intertidal areas, is not a logical and economical endeavor when other choices and existing facilities already exist closer to town.

Turning back up the road, my view now is down the long Inlet to the mountainous horizon opening on the edge of the pristine Copper River Delta.  The proposed Chugach National Forest management revision plan would remove so many existing protections.  As more visitors pour into the Sound through Whittier and Seward, western PWS is fast losing the wilderness quality the FS was purporting to be promoting.  The proposed plan would open much of the Sound to mining, timber removal, and motorized vehicle access.  It would remove important areas from the current wilderness protections. 

Public comment is open until Feb 19, and we need your words.

Port Gravina is being developed for an open pit gravel mine.  The Forest Service is bowing to pressure from industry and ignoring their responsibility to protect our precious Sound from these destructive activities.   Chugach Alaska Corp. is exercising their right to develop their subsurface resources; resources that happen to be underneath Exxon Valdez Oil Spill conservation easement protected surface areas.  The FS won’t ask for a full Environmental Impact Assessment to be performed, even though the proposed activity will undoubtedly have significant impacts.   The Chugach NF and the EVOS Trustee Council must reconcile the EVOS Restoration plan with the National Forest mandates; they need to secure subsurface rights on EVOS protected lands, and disallow any further mining or timber extraction from PWS.

PWS has many, many more challenges besides these to advocate and address.  The challenges seem overwhelming sometimes.  But our job needs to be done, no matter how impossible it seems, how much it makes us sweat, or our heart pound.  Like running down this road, gotta keep putting one foot in front of the other and make it as far as we can, as long as we can.

Prince William Soundkeeper, PO Box 1368, Cordova, Alaska, 99574  tel: 907-424-5701  a 501c(3) non-profit organization.
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