Southeast Borough Plan Draws Ire

Petersburg’s plan to form a borough is drawing opposition from several surrounding communities. While Juneau, Kake and Kupreanof say they don’t oppose a Petersburg borough, they are concerned about its boundaries.

Petersburg is on Mitkof Island, where the Wrangell Narrows meet Frederick Sound. Its proposed borough would be about 4-thousand 347 square miles – both land and water.

The new Petersburg boundaries would stretch into an area previously identified for annexation to the city and borough of Juneau: All the territory from the southern boundary of the CBJ and east to the Canadian border. It includes the Tracy Arm / Ford’s Terror Wilderness, Endicott Arm, as well as Holkam, Windham and Hobart bays.

Thirty-thousand acres at Hobart Bay are owned by Goldbelt, Juneau’s Native Corporation.

Mayor Bruce Botelho says Juneau has never filed to annex the area, in deference to Goldbelt, which previously opposed putting its Holkum Bayland in a borough.

Goldbelt Corporation says it is currently neutral with regard to which borough – if any — should encompass Holkum Bay. In a letter to both Botelho and Petersburg Mayor Al Dwyer, Goldbelt Operations Vice President Derek Duncan says the board will decide its borough preference over the next couple of months.

Dwyer says Petersburg’s new boundary line would be about the center of Holkum Bay and adjacent to Juneau’s boundary.

Over the next few weeks, Juneau will have to answer whether Petersburg’s petition to include those areas in a borough is the trigger for Juneau annexation.

Juneau Assembly member Peter Freer believes it is. Over the last decade several Southeast communities have expanded their boundaries: Ketchikan through annexation, Wrangell and Skagway have incorporated, and a number of other communities are examining new boundaries.

Meanwhile, both the city of Kake and the organized village of Kake plan to protest the Petersburg borough. The small first class city of about 560 is on the northwest coast of Kupreanof Island. The new borough would encompass a large part of the island, which Kake says are ancestral lands.

On the northeast shore of Kupreanof Island, the tiny second class city of Kupreanof – population about 30 – is also opposed. But Wrangell, which became a borough in 2008, says it doesn’t have any major issues with the proposed Petersburg borough boundaries.

The Juneau Assembly will take up the issue again later this month.

CORRECTION: The reference to the borough boundary going through Hobart Bay is incorrect. It actually goes through Holkum bay up against Juneau’s current boundary.

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Matt Lichtenstein is a reporter at KFSK in Petersburg.

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