Angoon residents, supporters protest Juneau’s annexation petition

Current and former Angoon residents and supporters protest Juneau’s application to annex portions of Admiralty Island on Friday, June 14, 2019. (Photo by Adelyn Baxter/KTOO)

A fight over land is reigniting after the City and Borough of Juneau submitted a proposal to annex portions of Admiralty Island to the state’s Local Boundary Commission.

Demonstrators gathered across from the state Capitol and later City Hall on Friday to protest CBJ’s petition to annex portions of Admiralty Island.

The draft petition proposes expanding Juneau’s current boundaries by 1,400 square miles. It includes land surrounding Tracy Arm to the south and portions of the northern end of Admiralty Island.

The Juneau Assembly approved those boundaries by a narrow vote in January 2018. Deputy City Manager Mila Cosgrove said it took the city a year and a half to get all of the application materials together.

She said city officials are aware of Angoon’s concerns, but they have confidence in the process.

“That’s why the Local Boundary Commission exists,” Cosgrove said. “It’s to assist neighboring areas to work out any differences of opinion about where those lines should be.”

The city of Angoon has protested annexation from the beginning, saying it threatens Indigenous subsistence practices and their role as the original stewards of Admiralty Island.

The Angoon City Council passed a resolution Monday, once again stating its opposition.

Angoon Mayor Joshua Bowen said he doesn’t understand why CBJ is moving forward with annexation when the land already has some federal protections from development. Tlingit Elders from Angoon traveled to Washington, D.C., in 1978 to lobby for those protections. That resulted in the creation of Admiralty Island National Monument.

“The attitude here is, like, why do we have to keep fighting to protect this monument?” Bowen said.

Sitka Democratic Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins joined Friday’s protest. His district includes Angoon, and he said he’s working with the city to send a letter of opposition to the Local Boundary Commission.

Kreiss-Tomkins said aspects of CBJ’s application — like the decision to exclude Funter Bay, where many Juneau residents own private cabins — likely won’t be viewed sympathetically by the commission.

“The Legislature can certainly disprove whatever the LBC puts forward, and I’ll certainly be exercising that prerogative if it feels warranted,” Kreiss-Tomkins said.

The Local Boundary Commission will do an informal review of CBJ’s petition before the final version is submitted. Once the commission completes its technical review, the petition will go to the Alaska Legislature for approval.

The City and Borough of Juneau’s website has a “Q&A” page describing the annexation process and the city’s rationale for the proposal.