AJOC EDITORIAL: Dead horses: Feds’ King Cove hypocrisy & the LIO fiasco
Sometimes a dead horse really does need another beating.
On May 4, we received a fresh reminder of the federal government’s rank and callous hypocrisy regarding the emergency access road from King Cove to Cold Bay.
Earlier in the week, we were treated to more of the rudderless Legislature’s trademark blend of incompetence and dysfunction that goes together like a jar of Goober Grape.
Before getting to the Republican-led Legislature’s ongoing and pathetic attempts to extricate itself from the embarrassment of its Downtown Anchorage office building, up for the first whack is the U.S. Interior Department led by Sally Jewell and a new rule proposed by its Fish and Wildlife Service agency.
The rule released May 4 allows for the killing of bald and golden eagles by wind farms and nearly quadruples the annual limit for killing bald eagles first proposed in 2009; it also acknowledges that human-caused mortality of golden eagles may be unsustainable because studies since 2009 indicate the population may be in decline.
The new rule out for public comment would allow the killing of 4,200 bald eagles nationwide by wind farms compared to the limit of about 1,100 proposed in 2009.
The limit on golden eagle kills remains zero, but the Fish and Wildlife Service knows that windmills will still be causing mortality and therefore it has come up with “compensatory mitigation” workarounds so that companies may pay some sort of fee to a conservation bank to make up for killing golden eagles.
This is the same Fish and Wildlife Service that denied approval — and was upheld by Jewell — for 11 miles of one-lane road to complete a connection between King Cove and Cold Bay through the Izembek Wildlife Refuge based on hypothetical impacts on Trumpeter swans and Pacific black brant geese whose populations have no conservation concern.
FWS estimates there are about 143,000 bald eagles in the U.S., with half of those in Alaska, and it believes as much as 5 percent or more of local area populations can be killed annually without impacting the species as a whole.
Of the Pacific black brant geese, about 160,000 gather in Alaska annually and thanks to warmer temperatures as many as 50,000 stayed through winter in 2014 to continue feasting on abundant eelgrass in the refuge lagoons.
Of the Trumpeter swans, 13,000 of the 16,000 or so in the U.S. reside in Alaska with Lower 48 populations raised mostly by eggs transplanted from here.
Examples of the federal government’s arrogant abuse of discretion can be found on a daily basis, but few could be more egregious than Jewell’s heartless disregard for 1,000 mainly Alaska Natives living in King Cove while giving special treatment to a favored “green” industry such as wind power to kill thousands of eagles every year even when her own data show one of those species may be in decline.
The proposed road would do no such harm, as Alaskans have a long history of building infrastructure in sensitive areas. And in any case, putting a few birds at risk cannot begin to outweigh the risks to residents with medical emergencies and the members of the U.S. Coast Guard who are called upon to rescue them.
The press release from the FWS regarding the new eagle kill rule — which it describes in Orwellian fashion as “eagle management” — commits sins of omission by not including the number of eagles it will allow the wind industry to kill every year. You have to read into the 162-page proposed rule to find that information.
Even more galling, though, is FWS Director Dan Ashe’s comment in the release that, “Eagles hold a revered place in our nation’s history and culture, particularly that of Native Americans.”
Frankly, it is disgusting that Jewell, Ashe, et al, can pretend to be concerned about Native Americans’ feelings when it comes to eagles while coldly disregarding their feelings about access to emergency medical care.
No more proof is needed that the federal government’s care for its trust responsibilities to Alaska Natives goes no further than the extent to which it aligns with its own agenda.
LIO saga continues
On May 2, the Legislative Council voted 12-1 to attempt to buy another office building in Anchorage for $12.5 million currently owned by Wells Fargo and rescinded its offer made just a month ago to buy the current Legislative Information Office for $32.5 million.
In an ironic twist, Wells Fargo was one of the construction lenders along with Northrim on the Downtown LIO and prepared an appraisal of $44 million that was used to justify the now-voided lease being below market value at some $3.3 million per year, which means it might end up getting a double payout from this whole fiasco because those notes were eventually consolidated into a longterm loan by EverBank.
The Legislature isn’t going to get away from its mess in Downtown Anchorage by moving to Midtown.
The Legislature is going to get sued by the developers and their lender and based on Alaska Supreme Court precedent they’re going to have a good chance of recovering their costs at a minimum regardless of the fact the lease was voided by a Superior Court judge.
This bunch in Juneau couldn’t boil water without messing it up, but then again, they can probably get a lobbyist to do it for them.
A microcosm of Republican leadership’s cluelessness was Senate President Kevin Meyer’s statement about letting lobbyists for the LIO owners buy his dinner at the same time he’s getting $213 in per diem.
“We could pay for our own way,” he said to the Alaska Dispatch News. “I’m just trying to think how that would work.”
They sure know how to eat.
They just don’t know how to pay.