Tuesday, August 01, 2006

We're Being Played!

I’m headed to Alaska tomorrow. Believe it or not, I’m not even taking a rod. It’s a family trip with my mom, dad and sister. We’ll all hook up in Vancouver on a cruise line that will eventually take us to Juneau. Inquiries among those who have taken this trip before, all enjoyed their travels. Although I could fit some time in with a rod, it would be a distraction under the circumstances. Besides I’ll get a chance to go back to Alaska one day and wet a line. These days, time with my mom and dad are special. They really aren’t the Alaska type, so I’m just excited to spend time with them in a part of the world where I feel comfortable. That is once I’m off the ship.

So while I’m gone, I plan on doing a fair amount of napping, eating, reading, writing and learning as much about the native costal cultures as I can. With the events at Little Hole and work taking up so much of my time, I haven’t any opportunities to write about much else. Over the next week, I should find plenty of time to get caught up and it will be nice to be able to focus on other things for a change. Although I’m nervous about leaving with regards to the events surrounding the Green River development. I leave the efforts in very competent hands.

Before departing here is the latest in our efforts to work with SITLA to preserve the Little Hole parcel. Things took an interesting turn last week after meetings with DWR and Kevin Carter. For those who have had little time to follow this, here is a brief summary of where we are to date:

For over a month SITLA and those opposed to the development of the controversial parcel situated within one of Utah’s most prized water resources, the Green River, have been exploring options in hopes of preserving these lands as open space. Considering that in the grand scheme of things, should this parcel sell for development, it would only generate a rather small amount of revenue to SITLA’s beneficiaries, we are a little puzzled by their position. However, those opposed to this development feel there are options available to SITLA that would allow it to not only preserve the parcel but in the end generate comparable revenues to satisfy it’s mandate. Evidence of this became very clear at the end of last weeks meetings.

On Thursday, July 27, 2006, a meeting was held with Kevin Carter and those interested parties opposed to proposal to develop the Little Hole parcel. Those opposed asked that he consider a deal that would involve a land exchange between the Division (DWR) and SITLA. Mr. Carter was adamant in saying that such a transaction at this late juncture was not possible. . Such a land exchange would allow the critical Little Hole parcel to be maintained for its wildlife and esthetic values. Lands to be exchanged could then be sold or, as in the case of many SITLA properties, left to increase in value to be transacted at a later date. A virtual win-win situation for all parties involved.

At the time, back in December, when the Division became aware of the proposal, they immediately called Mr. Carters office to discuss such a possibility. The DWR’s initial offer of properties to exchange did not meet SITLA’s requirements of preferred parcels for such a transaction. Upon the rejection of these Mr. Carter stated that he called the DWR to communicate which properties were desirable. Mr. Carter said that the DWR never responded to this correspondence. Since these properties were never on the table, at this juncture in fairness, he could not go back and accept an exchange from the Division.

Friday, the same individuals meet with Jim Karpowitz and members of his staff at Division headquarters to review documents secured through a GRAMMA request involving these critical lands. These documents were able to identify letters that showed the Division had offered the preferred parcels for exchange, but also additional properties. Not only did they respond to Mr. Carters request, they met in person with his office and discussed this options. This meeting was even acknowledged by a member of Mr. Carters office in another correspondence.

Mr. Carter has a better deal on the table. The Division properties are not only comparable in value, but are developable. This is a questionable aspect of the current parcel that is in questions. Even if the developer is given the opportunity to build on the Little Hole site, there remains significant problem: access, water quality, special use permits, power. In plot mats from the 50’s, the road that SITLA claims as granting them access fall 400’ short of their property. There are no water treatment facilities on this side of the river. The FS, in another letter has stated there opposition to this development and refuses to make available any Special Use Permits granting the ferrying of clients, equipment or supplies from the north side of the river. Should these and other viable issues prevent the development of this parcel then SITLA would have a property that is worth considerably less than the current offer that is on the table. A risk they appear to be will to take.

Another issue that SITLA is unwilling to disclose is the investing party. Flint Timber is a front for those who will be financing this Lodge. From two independent sources it has been learned that Casino owners are the money behind the project. One source lies within a federal agency, another is an angler from Texas with connections inside Flint Timber. When Mr. Carter was confronted with this issue he didn’t deny the allegation or care where the money came from as long as he is able to satisfy his mandate. Although he stated that those he answers to would not be influenced should such be the case, given the heat that SITLA has been under as of late that would be questionable at best.

Again, why all the fuss over a potential windfall that in the grand scheme of things isn’t significant given the fact that there are viable alternatives, alternative that would be in the best interest of the public and SITLA. SITLA has an opportunity to not only serve their beneficiaries but serve them two fold as stated. The DWR’s offer is appropriate and was made in a timely manner in response to Mr. Carters suggestions. Why he continues to deny such an offer exists is a mystery considering his options.

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