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Ups and downs - Nov. 12

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Posted: Monday, November 12, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 4:16 pm, Fri Jan 25, 2013.

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner editorial

Thumbs up: Arbitrators appear to have come to a reasonable conclusion concerning the losses the state suffered to its income as a result of BP’s pipeline problems on the North Slope a half-dozen years ago.

The company will pay the state $255 million. That’s well below the $1 billion the state estimated it lost in revenue as a result of pipeline-related shutdowns. However, BP rightly noted that the state actually hasn’t lost that income. It’s just delayed. The oil is still in the ground. The amount spilled was relatively insignificant.

While critics of the oil companies use various statistics to paint a picture of environmental devastation in the Prudhoe Bay area, anyone who saw the spills in question would be underwhelmed. They affected tiny spots on the tundra and were thoroughly cleaned up.

Thumbs up: Skeletal remains from three people who died hundreds of years ago were found near McGrath last month. Researchers believe the bones will reveal a great deal about those people and their relationship to today’s Athabascan residents of the Interior.

Finding human bones of this age is unusual. Acidic soils usually destroy such material sooner. These were buried in sand, perhaps either a dune or a river bar.

The bones were uncovered on property owned by MTNT, Limited, the for-profit Native corporation that holds the settlement land claimed by upper Kuskokwim River villages. MTNT presented the remains last week in Fairbanks to Tanana Chiefs Conference, the regional nonprofit consortium of Interior tribes, for study and safe-keeping.

It might take a few years, but everyone in the region will be interested to see what these visitors from past centuries have to tell us about their lives.

Thumbs down: Well-meaning Fairbanksans have created a self-perpetuating duck dilemma. A few quackers began suffering through the winters years ago on the open water of the Chena River below the power plant. People noticed and thought they’d help out by feeding them. So more ducks stayed and survived the cold. More feeding ensued. Now we have hundreds of ducks wintering here. A few even are waddling about downtown, panhandling and warming their feet on the heated concrete outside the courthouse.

There is only one way to resolve the duck dilemma: Stop feeding them. Many ducks probably would die initially. After a few winters, most survivors would get the message and move on each fall.

A few literal diehards probably would remain, though, and so the cycle of sympathetic feeding and expanding winter duck populations probably would resume.

From an environmental perspective, this is of little concern. Ducks regularly over-winter in at least one other location in the Interior where they have food and open water. Those circumstances now occur in the middle of Fairbanks. Our view: The ducks aren’t going away. We’ll just have to live with them.

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