City of Bethel to explore potential incorporation of a borough

Greg Lincoln

by Greg Lincoln

The City of Bethel Council voted to pass an action memorandum that would direct city administration to review the potential incorporation of a borough in the Kuskokwim Region.

This also includes collaboration with regional agencies, the State of Alaska, cities, villages, and tribal governments in the creation of a committee to pursue a borough incorporation possibly within the Bethel census area.

Action Memorandum 15-56 was brought forth by council member Nikki Hoffman.

“The process is fairly complex,” said City Manager Ann Capela during discussion.

“The reason I brought this forth was because – if Donlin Gold is going to go through – the way things are looking it seems like it is going forward – my concern is is that we as a community have very limited means. We have very limited tools in our toolbox to have authority over our environment,” said council member Hoffman. “If this company is going to come in and do a lot of renovation to our environment and have lasting impacts on so many things and places that it would be worth looking into what would be the risks and benefits of creating a borough.”

After more discussion voting commenced on AM 15-56 which passed 4-2. Voting not in favor were Mayor Rick Robb and council member Leif Albertson.

Donlin Gold recently released their Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

“Without a doubt, Donlin Gold project is moving forward. As I scanned the DRAFT EIS document, it is clear that when this operation goes into full effect, the construction staging and construction of the base camp will have a profound impact on the City of Bethel and the Donlin Gold mine sphere of influence. The long term impact (possible 30 years of operations and 30 years of monitoring of the impact after the closure of the mine will create a 60 plus years of a life-cycle of this operations. The incoming sea barge with at least two river barges operating on a daily basis, air traffic and additional pressures of housing will have a lasting economic, social and cultural impact on the City of Bethel and the region,” wrote City Manager Capela to council in her December 1st report. “It is my recommendation that Bethel City Council establish an ad hoc committee to formulate a response to this EIS from the City’s perspective. Please note that the DRAFT EIS does not address any issues with the City of Bethel or in the Port of Bethel. City of Bethel does not even appear on their radar screen. Although this report states that there is minimal to no possibility of any fuel spill in Port of Bethel, thus there are no mitigation plans for Port of Bethel or anywhere near Bethel.”