POW fears of borough annexation rekindle

Rumors are once again rolling that the Ketchikan Gateway Borough might annex some or all of Prince of Wales Island.

At the Borough Assembly’s Monday meeting, Assembly Member John Harrington said the annexation question was once again surfacing on Prince of Wales, prompting him to write a draft resolution for a future vote.

The Assembly approved a resolution in early 2013 disavowing any interest in extending its western borders, which end in the middle of Clarence Strait.

That resolution noted the Assembly couldn’t bind future Assemblies and couldn’t stop a citizen-led initiative.

On Tuesday, one Prince of Wales leader said the borough hasn’t done enough to convince residents of the island.

Harrington said he became aware of it through his role as a member of the state’s Local Boundary Commission.

“Several years back, we had put forth, I thought, a reasonable resolution saying we weren’t interested,” Harrington said. “But apparently that wasn’t quite enough.”

Leslie Isaacs, current chair of the Prince of Wales Community Advisory Council, said on Tuesday that while he’s hearing “the normal chatter” about annexation, Ketchikan’s borough hasn’t done enough to calm fears on Prince of Wales.

Referencing the 2013 resolution, he said that a “resolution is exactly that — just an opinion of the council at that time.”

Isaacs also works as the administrator of the City of Klawock.

He also noted a radio interview during Ketchikan’s October election season, when one candidate talked about the two potential mines on southern Prince of Wales as “potential revenue sources.”

While that might be innocuous in Ketchikan, Prince of Wales residents worry the mines on their island could be used to fill budget gaps across the strait.

Isaacs noted the state’s continuing budget crisis and fewer federal funds coming to rural Alaska.

“With those cutbacks, what does the future look like?” he said. “That’s what scares us, honestly. In that declining revenue, what would stop them from annexing the bottom half of the island, where they might be able to pick up some revenue?”

Harrington’s draft resolution, which hasn’t been considered by the Assembly, would establish as a “policy” of the borough that it “will seek no additional annexation without specifically being asked to annex an area by residents or property owners in that area.”

The draft resolution states that the resolution is “made in good faith,” and the policy is expressed with “strong conviction based on current borough plans and intentions.”

The resolution, like its 2013 precursor, states that it can’t bind future Assemblies or others who file petitions with the state’s Local Boundary Commission.

The last large annexation of the borough took place in 2008, when it expanded its eastern borders to include more than 4,000 square miles of the Tongass National Forest in southern Southeast.

More in News

The Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Encore docks in Juneau in October, 2022. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)
Ships in Port for t​​he Week of Oct. 1

Here’s what to expect this week.

Students in the Juneau School District fared better on standardized science tests during the past year than their peers statewide, but the local proficiency score of about 43% was nearly 6% lower than the local scores last year, according to results released last Friday. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)
Statewide test scores show Alaska’s students still struggling

About 37% proficient in science statewide; Juneau at 43%, down from 48.6% a year ago.

A closed sign sits on Delta’s ticket counter after hours inside Juneau International Airport in August of 2022. The airline announced this week it is suspending service between Juneau and Seattle from Nov. 4 to June 6, 2024. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire File)
Delta Air Lines canceling Juneau-Seattle flights from Nov. 4 until early next June

Airline cites “commercial and operational constraints,” analyst says higher local airfares likely.

Residents sit in voter booths at the voter center located at the Mendenhall Valley Public Library on Tuesday afternoon. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Election Day kicks off in Juneau

Preliminary results of municipal election expected to be announced late Tuesday night.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Monday, Oct. 2, 2023

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., leaves the House floor after being ousted as Speaker of the House at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
McCarthy becomes the first speaker ever to be ousted from the job in a House vote

WASHINGTON — Speaker Kevin McCarthy was voted out of the job Tuesday… Continue reading

An exercise station at Anchorage’s Westchester Lagoon is seen on Monday. The “Fitness Cluster” offers opportunities for strength and cardiovacular training, and signage gives fitness information and advice. Two-thirds of Alaska adults are overweight or obese, and about a fifth of them engage in no physical activity, according to an annual report released by the state Department of Health. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Report: Alaskans dogged by chronic diseases

Many residents lack healthy lifestyles or regular screenings.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read