Friday, March 09, 2007

Bad projects take on life of their own

There isn't an attempt here to diss the Pebble Mine project in the headwaters of Bristol Bay. Just thought I'd pass on some information for those who live in that neck of the woods. Check out this Southern Oregon mine from hell.

I took this picture of a derelict salmon cannery on the back side of Kodiak Island while flying by. The Karluk is just a few bays down. Notice the superintendent's house in the hill. The "super" used to effectively rule the area around a cannery. That tradition dies hard.

Number one, is that all the fish in an 18 mile stretch of two creeks are dead. Steelhead, coho salmon, trout, and whatever other small fish live in these streams. Second, all the bug life fish eat in the streams are dead and gone and not coming back. Third, the wildlife wouldn't touch this water source with a ten foot pole, so the area is devoid of game.

Who did this to this spot 25 miles south of Roseburg? A Canadian company. But Legislators in Alaska need to be cautious. Their current House Bill 134 would foreclose the driving of any new pilings that the new Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association might want at the mouth of the Naknek River. A bill protecting the rivers and streams is great, but caution is the word of the day so you don't end up making it a crime to sneeze within ten feet of moving water. (Already there's a law that you can't pee behind a tree in the Tongass National Forest.)

The processing companies that already have docks on the rivers would love to have exclusive rights to ownership of piers out there. It would make for tough negotiations for custom processing of fishermen's fish to be able to market their own production. You'd hear processors shouting, "Go jump in a river" all over the Bay. Heck, that might not be legal pretty soon either.

To tie into the title of this article, I probably helped Northern Dynasty by just mentioning Pebble. You know, if you say something loud enough and long enough,................. Maybe we should use a word that reflects a future where fish and toxic metals co-exist if need be. Use it on all correspondence and in all conversation, if you can think of one.

On a different note, I love the profiles of Alaskan communities in the Anchorage Daily News. This one is about Tyonek on the west side of Cook Inlet. Remember all the action is on the EAST side of Cook Inlet; the people, the roads, the lodges, hotels, Kenai River kings, etc. The 200 residents are the die-hards that survived the 1836 - 1840 smallpox epidemic, the 1918 flu pandemic, and the flooding of the whole town in 1930.

I was reminded of a chapter in a book on the life of Mont Hawthorn who describes building a cannery there in the 1800s. You can get a whoppin' S.E. blow on top of a big tide and that spells trouble. They got one the first year (the previous cannery had washed away) and they had a log come end wise into the Chinese bunkhouse. I guess the Chinese thought they'd be start'n back to China in a salt barrel right then.

I'm looking forward to seeing that book back from a friend who borrowed it. He went overboard with it in the middle of the Bering Sea when the fishing boat he was on went down last fall. That's a responsible friend. Actually he has a list of people who want to read it next and that's OK by me.

Mont also described, to his historian/writer daughter, the first commercial fishing regulations in Alaska. It regarded the huge sockeye runs in the Karluk River on Kodiak Island. So many "outfits" built cannerys there, and had beach seines, that they got together and drew lots for turns setting. They also outlawed fishing on Saturday so the cannery crews could have a day off on Sunday.

Although absent from their rules was any mention of leaving any fish to sustain future runs. They were more interested in preventing any more cannerys being torched from all the squabbles. Historians will look back on 2007 and wonder what the heck was with rule makers letting fishermen throw a healthy chunk of all the off-shore catches back dead.