The Borough Assembly Tuesday, March 26th covered a bill to establish a bounty on sea otters, the creation of an energy committee, and a controversial Mental Health timber sale.

The Borough Assembly approved all items on the agenda.

Assembly member James Stough moved to establish a special energy committee. This committee would consist of two Assembly members, one member of the public, a Wrangell member of the Southeast Alaska Power Agency board, the Wrangell representative of the Thomas Bay Power Authority, and two rural staff members.

City Hall – Photo by Shady Grove Oliver/KSTK News

Stough says he thinks this is a good first step in dealing with the issue of SEAPA as discussed in the last Assembly meeting.

The Assembly unanimously approved a resolution supporting Senate Bill 60 and House Bill 145.

Those bills deal with a proposed $100 per pelt bounty on sea otters.

The Assembly encourages the Alaska Senate and House of Representatives to approve the legislation.

The Assembly also discussed a controversial Mental Health timber sale. The land affected by potential logging would be near the former Institute property, several private residences, and Rainbow Falls.

Mayor David Jack requested this topic be added to the meeting following concerns raised by Wrangell resident Daryl Gross.

Jack said the Borough has been open about the timber sale from the beginning.

“There have been statements made that imply the Borough staff is for some unknown reason trying to keep this quiet. One comment I believe I heard was ‘sweeping under the rug.’ It is my contention that Borough staff has gone above and beyond any requirement they may have had in regard to this matter,” said Jack.

Gross, who raised the initial concerns, lives adjacent to the Institute property. He says the Borough may not be doing enough to address the sale.

“I mean, I understand what you said, that your hands are tied and you can’t do anything because it’s State and Federal, and the Mental Health are doing this. But look at the mess they left out the road. There’s a house a tree went through out there. It knocked out their electricity and water and the neighbors had to fix it for her. Another one—an RV fell on a camper out there because of the wind blowing out because the trees are all gone. And it demolished that. And water streams you drink out of out there—the trees fell across that and they went and cleaned it up, and the culverts were plugged. It’s still going on,” said Gross.

Jack said the Borough recommended that the Mental Health Trust take nearby residents into consideration in the decision to log.

“The Borough also commented recommending that Mental Health Land Trust listen to the concerns and requests of the property owners, minimize the impact to residents, and leave at least a 100-foot buffer between the sale and nearby property,” said Jack.

Gross said he believes the community needs to come together as a whole to deal with the issue.

“Where do we stand as citizens—as Alaskans? Are we going to let these people walk all over here and do this? It’s ruining our backyard. It’s ruining everything we do—our way of subsistence life. And what it says in their contracts is they take everything down, dead or alive. And they take brush, blueberry picking, everything. All they care about is money. And that’s where I’m coming from.  I think Alaskans should stand up for each other and stand up together and fight this. This is wrong,” said Gross.

Several other community members commented on this issue during the public discussion period.

This timber sale was advertised by the Mental Health Trust Land Office last summer. The sale was recently finalized.