January 7, 2009

Critics: Mine plan could affect caribou

A proposed gravel mine in Alaska would disrupt a caribou migration route and local subsistence hunting, critics say.

The Anchorage Daily News reported Wednesday that the plan by a construction company calls for pulling gravel from roughly 40 acres near Hugo Mountain, about 18 miles northeast of Kotzebue, Alaska.

The proposed gravel pit would operate from June to September each year and produce 1.6 million cubic yards of gravel over 20 years on land that passed into private ownership through Native tribe allotments.

The newspaper said more than 120 people have expressed concern to regulators that the plan runs counter to the traditional and cultural use of the land.

With the high price of gas, the lower Noatak River is the area that most of our residents hunt for caribou from mid-August till freeze-up, former Kotzebue Mayor Willie Goodwin wrote in a letter to the state. The area is also the first rest stop for salmon that migrate up the Noatak to spawn after four or five years in the ocean.

Rock from the mine would likely be used for such projects as a $30 million effort to rebuild a shore-front road being eroded by Kotzebue Sound, the Daily News said.