Petersburg wins Tracy Arm wrestling match

Petersburg wins Tracy Arm wrestling match

The City and Borough of Juneau has lost a boundary dispute involving the Petersburg Borough.

In a decision released Friday, the Alaska Supreme Court sided with Petersburg and the Local Boundary Commission of Alaska, which set Petersburg’s northern boundary along a series of peaks south of Tracy Arm.

When the Petersburg Borough was created in 2011, its creators sought to put its northern boundary at the southern edge of the CBJ, which runs mostly north of Tracy Arm. Shortly afterward, the CBJ filed a counter-claim, seeking annexation of all of Tracy Arm, Endicott Arm and mainland Alaska to a point south of Port Houghton. The counter-claim included almost 1,900 square miles sought by the Petersburg Borough.

The dispute was taken up by the boundary commission, whose duty is to mediate such conflicts.

“This wasn’t a situation where the CBJ had a dispute against Petersburg,” municipal attorney Amy Mead said. “This was really a case where we had doubts and concerns over the analysis engaged.”

The boundary commission, after weighing the two proposals, decided on a compromise that set Petersburg’s northern boundary south of Tracy Arm but farther north than the CBJ had sought.

The CBJ subsequently challenged that compromise. At issue was a constitutional question: Did the Local Boundary Commission violate Article X, Section 3 of the Alaska Constitution, which states that boroughs must “embrace an area and population with common interests to the maximum degree possible.”

“We thought the law was clear,” Mead said.

Mead argued the CBJ’s case before the supreme court, and in June, she said the issue came down to “who has the closest connection” to the area “to the maximum degree possible.”

Statistics from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game show Petersburg fishermen pull the majority of fish from waters in the contested area, but Juneau residents and organizations own most of the privately held land in the area. Flights into the area typically come from Juneau as well, Mead said.

Friday’s decision “affirmed that it’s really up to the commission” to decide who has the closest connection to the area, Mead said on Friday.

As part of Friday’s ruling, the CBJ must pay $1,500 in court costs to Petersburg. The CBJ’s southern boundary has not yet changed, and if the CBJ seeks to annex Tracy Arm, it must continue to pursue that process through the boundary commission.

Complaint dismissed

Also on Friday, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled in favor of the CBJ in an $8 million lawsuit filed by a woman who said she was injured by a city bus and improperly discharged from Bartlett Regional Hospital.

Marina Austin represented herself, claiming an emergency room physician released her from Bartlett when she should have been sent for treatment in Seattle instead. She sought $4 million in damages. In a separate complaint, Austin said she had her arm caught in a Capital Transit bus door while stepping out of the bus. She sought $4 million in that case as well.

Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg ruled against Austin, but she appealed to the supreme court, saying Pallenberg was biased against her and discriminated against her.

“Judicial bias cannot be inferred solely from adverse rulings,” the supreme court said, ruling against her on all arguments.

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