Juneau loses boundary appeal to Petersburg
“I don’t necessarily consider it a loss. … We thought the law stood for something that needed clarification, and the court has now clarified. … “I think it really solidifies that it’s the commission’s decision, how to frame the question in making a boundary determination.”Since Mead is the City and Borough of Juneau’s staff attorney, fighting the case carried only incidental expenses. The Alaska Supreme Court has settled a boundary dispute between Juneau and Petersburg affecting about 1,500 square miles of Southeast. Under the decision the court issued Friday (Dec. 4), Petersburg Borough boundaries will stand as they are, now that Juneau has lost its last legal challenge on the matter.Download AudioPetersburg Mayor Mark Jensen says his borough was ready for the decision.“I think it’s good news, you know? Definitely for Petersburg. We’ve already been moving ahead like that was in our borough, so I’m glad to hear that it is.”The previously contested land is almost completely uninhabited national forest – an old estimate puts the population at one. Still, local control and some revenue were at stake.Petersburg Borough Manager Stephen Giesbrecht says the annexed land boosts state revenue sharing and some federal payments.“If the borough formation would not have happened, our financial situation here in the borough would have been a lot different than it is today. We’re like everybody else. We’re having to look for things to cut. But because of the borough formation, we’re not having to do it in ways that other communities have done.”Petersburg fisherman are responsible for more than 90 percent of the commercial haul from the area; Juneau businesses and residents own most of the private land.Goldbelt, Inc., Juneau’s urban Native corporation, owns about 30,000 acres in the annexed area around Hobart Bay. Since logging ended there in 1999, Goldbelt has explored turning it into a cruise ship destination, and planted 80,000 geoduck seed for an experimental aquaculture operation. Goldbelt anticipates Hobart Bay geoduck will be harvest-ready beginning around 2023, according to its last annual report.Attorney Amy Mead argued the case for Juneau before the Supreme Court in June. She says it was a worthwhile fight.