State official blasts Juneau’s bid to annex island land
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott criticized Juneau’s bid for annexation, saying the state’s capital city is not being a good neighbor.
Speaking at a conference Wednesday, Mallott lambasted officials for trying to annex parts of nearby Admiralty Island, CoastAlaska News reported . His comments were made at the Southeast Conference Mid-Session Summit.
The Assembly voted in January to add four parcels to its borough, including parts of northern Admiralty Island. It later dropped one parcel after hearing objections from Juneau cabin owners. Officials in Angoon, the island’s only city, also opposed the annexation, calling it a land grab.
Most of Admiralty Island’s million acres are protected as a national monument. It’s used for subsistence hunting and fishing. A mine on its north end has already been annexed by Juneau.
“Juneau needs to recognize that it’s the capital of Alaska but also the regional center of Southeast,” Mallott said. “And it has a responsibility and an obligation to reach out affirmatively to every other community in Southeast and say, ‘Let’s be neighbors and let’s work together and let’s build a place that is unassailable by the Legislature or anyone else who would seek to divide us.’”
Mallott said Juneau should respect the objections of island residents by dropping additional parcels from the annexation plan.
“The people of Angoon feel so passionate and spiritual about all of Admiralty Island,” he said. “They’re concerned about economic development on that side of the island now. What’s the future of their island, that they share with the rest of our country as one of the most beautiful places on the face of the Earth.”
Juneau Mayor Ken Koelsch said city officials have tried to work with Angoon but couldn’t come up with a time to meet.
Koelsch said he’ll continue to try to set up a meeting.
Koelsch said Juneau also has longtime connections to the land it’s trying to annex. The land includes historic trade routes and areas are claimed as traditional territory by Juneau’s Aak’w Kwaan and Taku Kwaan.
The city began looking at the parcels after losing a boundary battle with Petersburg. Both boroughs claimed rights to absorb acreage on the mainland between the two communities. Juneau lost, in part because Petersburg petitioned for the property first. So it began looking at other areas within model borough boundaries set years before.