On Monday, January 6th, the Talkeetna Community Council Board of Directors held its regular monthly meeting. Included on the agenda were the Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project, House Bill 77, and timber.
Chamber of Commerce President Beth Valentine spoke as a Person to be Heard, and discussed the implementation of the Mat-Su Borough’s Riverfront Park plan. She says the Chamber will be hosting a meeting on Thursday afternoon at the Talkeetna Roadhouse to discuss the plan with Don Dyer, the Borough’s Economic Development Director.
Beth Valentine also voiced concern for the Alaska State Troopers’ Talkeetna Post. She says that, because Trooper vacancies have not been filled, it may indicate that the post is in danger of closing. On Tuesday, Trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters firmly denied that the Trooper post was in danger. She says that Trooper vacancies often remain open longer than anticipated due to a lack of bids from Troopers wanting to fill the vacancy as well as urgent staffing needs in other parts of the state.
Two issues were discussed regarding the Susitna-Watana Project. Council Chair Whitney Wolff reported that the Council had signed on to a joint letter requesting executive summaries and consistent format for the forthcoming initial study reports on the proposed dam. She also discussed the 120 day extension that AEA has requested for the integrated licensing process for the project. The Council also voted unanimously to jointly write a letter with the Chase Community Council asking for an audit of AEA’s expenditures and an accounting of whether the project is operating over budget.
The Council Board also discussed the status of the meeting they requested with Ed Fogels of DNR regarding House Bill 77, the bill that the state says is designed to streamline permitting, but some Alaskans say is meant to silence public input on DNR decisions. Iris Vandenham reported that some progress had been made getting various parties to attend, but nothing was finalized. On Tuesday, KTNA learned that there will be a meeting with DNR to discuss HB77 next Tuesday at Talkeetna Elementary School at 6:00 pm.
Finally, John Strasenburgh voiced concerns with the Mat-Su Borough’s Timber Harvest Implementation Schedule. He says that there are discrepancies between the five-year plan and the implementation plan. He says making the timber harvest sustainable will be very challenging, that there are questions about enforcement of regulations in the past, and that a focus on reforestation is important. Strasenburgh adds that the issue is a very complex one, and he believes the Borough is working to address concerns, but that some questions remain. The Council voted to write a letter to the Mat-Su Borough citing those concerns.
The next meeting of the Talkeetna Community Council Board of Directors will be on Monday, February 3rd.