Pelican Seafoods foreclosure suspended

Juneau, Alaska (AP) 11-09

Foreclosure proceedings on the biggest business enterprise in Pelican have stalled.

Once and future owner Kake Tribal Corp. planned to reacquire the Pelican Seafoods plant through a foreclosure last month, but the plant’s potentially hazardous coolant has complicated the situation. To keep the ammonia contained, the freezers must keep running and no one wants to pay that expense.

“We’re going to hold off on that indefinitely, until the situation with the ammonia is complete,” Kake Tribal CEO Steve Malin told the Juneau Empire.

Kake Tribal bought the plant 70 miles west of Juneau hoping to develop a resort there, but abandoned those plans years ago. An attempt at running the fish plant itself failed, and it was sold in 2006 to Ed Bahrt & Associates of Sitka.

Bahrt, contacted by e-mail, confirmed he still owns the nearly abandoned plant. When operating, it is the largest business in the community of 113 of Chichagof Island, but it has only operated intermittently over the last several years.

Scot Tiernan of the Department of Environmental Conservation said a plan developed by the Coast Guard and the Pelican Utility District would have the ammonia removed from the system and sequestered on site.

“That will buy them some time,” he said.

Besides the ammonia, the plant’s freezers contain 60,000 pounds of old bait.

“Rotting bait might be more dangerous than the ammonia,” in those quantities, Pelican Mayor Patricia Phillips said.

Some of the bait is being ground and disposed of in Lisianski Inlet near Pelican, while an Environmental Protection Agency permit is being sought to dump the bulk of it in the ocean, Tiernan said.

Once the problems are resolved, Kake Tribal intends to proceed with the foreclosure and attempt to resell the plant, Malin said.