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Water World Threatens Prince William Sound

Katherine Fuselier

Water World, LLC sought authorization to place and maintain a fuel barge for the commercial sale of fuel with a docking platform and commercial float lodge for temporary housing. The site is located offshore of Knight Island, in the Prince William Sound and is within the boundaries of the College Fjord-Nellie Juan Wilderness Study Area of the Chugach National Forest.

The Sierra Club opposes such a project, and is working with our partners to ensure that the Water World application is permanently denied as it is not in the state's best interest because its detriments outweigh its benefits and because it is contrary to well-established state and federal management goals for the Knight Island area. Based on information from from the State, the primary benefits of the proposal appear to be the provision of fuel and sundries to pleasure boaters and sleeping accommodations for kayakers. The detriments include the following:

* construction of an industrial facility within a Wilderness Study Area, an operation that does not conform with the existing uses and wilderness quality of the area;
* construction of an industrial facility in an area impacted by and still recovering from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill;
* water pollution that threatens fish and wildlife, in the form of the numerous inevitable small gasoline and diesel spills that accompany commercial fuel operations anywhere, as well as the risk of larger spills made possible by the storage of 10,000 gallons of gasoline and diesel on site;
* incongruence between the activity and management direction set forth in three different documents: the Prince William Sound Area Plan, Alaska Coastal Management Program, and Chugach Land and Resource Management Plan;
* noise pollution stemming from the diesel generator that will provide electricity to the site and the general bustle of a commercial operation;
* light pollution from 12-volt lighting that will be furnished "throughout the site";
* loss of wilderness character and coastal habitat in Herring Bay.

 

A public hearing was held on this issue in December 2004. Over 100 people showed up at the State sponsored public hearing, and 45 people testified in opposition to the proposed floating fuel station, not one person testified in favor or such a proposal. It was quiet a display of public rally and support for wilderness protection.

 

Local residents from Whittier, Chenega and Cordova, boaters (including the Whittier Boat Owners Association), commercial fishermen (including Cordova District Fishermen United), Native villages (including Chugach Regional Resources Commission, an umbrella for six Native villages in southcentral AK, including the two in PWS), charter operators, numerous individual kayakers, conservation groups and others all joined forces in what was the strongest and broadest display of public opposition we could have possibly hoped for.

 

Every speaker did a great job, and several were truly moving. (The written comments were similar - over 200 individualized and often passionate letters of opposition versus 50 form letters in support.) Long-time boaters brought wit, wisdom and loads of personal experience to bear on the question. High school kids from Whittier spoke from the heart about the destruction of their backyard. Jennifer from Eyak Preservation Council impressively presented an additional 140 Cordova signatures and letters of opposition.

 

Towards the end of April 2005, DNR came out with a decision to deny the application submitted by Water World LLC.

DNR Letter - Application Denied 4-18-05

 

As explained in the attached letter, overwhelming public opposition (more than 500 written comments, and testimony by 45 people at the public hearing) was a key reason that DNR rejected the application. Because of the immense public involvement, the administrative record on which DNR based its decision was packed with evidence of the many ways the proposal would not benefit the public. Because so many citizens informed themselves, requested a public hearing, attended the public hearing when the request was granted, and spoke so passionately and knowledgably about the issues when the time came, we presented the most resounding expression of public sentiment many of us have ever witnessed.

 

We thank ALL those who were involved in this issue and making your opinions known to DNR!

  • Public Lands

     
     

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