Kids played outside the assembly chambers last night during the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly regular meeting. They’d abandoned bags, coats, and papers on the hallway carpet. Their parents were likely among those who filled the assembly chambers for their chance to give comment on the conservation easements to Termination Point and Long Island.
During public comment, most audience members voiced support for the borough holding the conservation easements, which would prevent development and otherwise protect the natural resources on the two Leisnoi-owned properties.
The Great Land Trust, a nonprofit that identifies land that could benefit from conservation efforts, first came before the assembly asking for them to hold the conservation easements late last summer.
The contract would be free of charge to the borough, as the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council is the funder, but the Great Land Trust needs an entity to sponsor the easement.
Representatives from all the parties involved have come before the borough assembly multiple times since last summer.
At the assembly’s last work session, Assemblyman Kyle Crow expressed concern about the possible liabilities for the borough if it agrees.
Borough manager Michael Powers followed up at the regular meeting where the assembly was slated to vote on two resolutions, one to accept a conservation easement for Long Island and the other for Termination Point.
Powers said the attorneys had taken another look at the contracts and possible liabilities since the work session. They’d noted that the two state statuettes that provide liability waivers in the case of undeveloped land ownership may or may not apply to the borough in this case. Powers said that’s because the borough would be the recipient of the easements, not the owner.
“There is no case law on point, so they cannot go to case law, but they are cognizant that there are numerous easements recorded all over the state of Alaska that rely on those two sections of Alaska law for liability.”
Powers said the assembly has the option to pursue the inclusion of an indemnification clause, which would lay possible costs with another party.
When it came to discussion of the resolutions, Crow stated his intention of proposing an amendment to include that change.
“The state of Alaska has laws on their books that protect them … and the borough does not apparently, and for us to also perform due diligence to protect the city in perpetuity, my grandchildren and their grandchildren, perhaps from any liability that they would incur, I think that that is just good management and responsible.”
Borough Mayor Dan Rohrer stressed that making alterations to the contract at this point would be a lengthy process.
“This is a multiparty contract and the reality is that it took over a year to get here, and I think we need to keep that in mind as we’re voting. This would need to go back in front of the United States government via the Bureau of Land Management for approval as well as Leisnoi and its board of directors and its shareholders, and as well as the state of Alaska. And EVOS’s board of directors as well.”
Crow went forward with his proposal of an amendment to each resolution and both times the motion failed. The assembly’s votes on the unaltered resolutions to hold the easements were the same for Long Island and then Termination Point. The motion carried 4 – 2 with Crow and Rebecca Skinner against.
In addition to showing up in person, members of the public submitted numerous letters of support.