By Charlton “Chuck” Stanley, Weekend Contributor
A few days ago, there was some good-natured banter in the comments about Chicken, Alaska. Since I have relatives who do gold mining there during the summer months, I followed up with some reading about Chicken. This old gold mining town was founded in 1886. We often hear of something being “in the middle of nowhere.” In this case it’s true. Chicken is a six hour drive northeast of Fairbanks on the Taylor Highway, which goes to Dawson, Yukon.
This is one of the most isolated and difficult to reach communities on the North American continent. The only way in and out is either by the Taylor Highway or a small airstrip. I was surprised to learn that this town of 17 people (6 households and 4 families) was the subject of a raid last fall. The raid was carried out by a black-clad SWAT team in full body armor and armed to the teeth. The eight agents appeared out of nowhere in the tiny town. They were from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), on a mission to inspect the water associated with gold mining.
Now to put this in perspective, my relatives appear to be among the suspects. I did the math on the suspect to agent ratio, and there was a SWAT officer for every 2.17 persons in town. However, the true population is the subject of some debate. The 2010 Census recorded a population of seven (7) people. There are, of course, the determined travelers making the Fairbanks to Dawson trek. I say “determined” travelers, because it is a trip that one has to be determined to make in order to even consider the drive. That clearly made the odds in favor of the townspeople, so it is understandable the officers were all dressed in body armor and armed with a variety of firearms.
After their inspection of the mining and miners, the Federal agents warned the miners to not put so much mud in the creeks. Really. That was their order.
I was never able to find out if they seized any of Susan’s cinnamon rolls or pies for “evidence.” Susan sells her baked goods to tourists passing through on their way to the Yukon Territory or south to Fairbanks.
To their credit, Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich have attempted to inquire into the task force’s actions. Alaska Congressman Don Young is also trying to get information. So far, straight answers are not forthcoming from the EPA. The EPA has refused to publicly explain why it used armed officers as part of what it called a “multi-jurisdictional” investigation of possible Clean Water Act violations in the area. In a conference call with Alaska’s Senators and Congressman Young, members of their staff, state police officers, the EPA claimed it sent in the task force armed and wearing body armor because of information it received from the Alaska State Troopers about “rampant drug and human trafficking going on in the area.” Officials with the state police say that is simply not true, which is a polite way of saying the EPA is lying. The State Troopers have no information, and never had any information, regarding “rampant drug and human trafficking.”
The citizens of Alaska and especially the town of Chicken, have a lot of questions about this raid by armed Federal agents. Alaskans have a deep distrust of Federal agencies, which have traditionally been heavy handed in their interactions with local citizens.
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) says one of its compliance officers went along with the task force, but claim it was only to look for potential state violations at the mine sites.
The DEC admits its officer was armed. It seems safe to assume the DEC officer was one of the black clad SWAT officers in body armor. What has been learned so far is that in addition to the DEC officer, the raid was carried out by members of the EPA, the FBI, Coast Guard, and the Department of Defense.
So that we know what kind of town required a full squad of SWAT officers, we need to take a look at the town.
Next, we take a look at a miner who must be one of those ordered by the EPA to not put mud into the creek as he mined for gold. Looks like he could be a drug and human trafficker to me. Real shifty eyed type.
Don’t put mud into the water. That’s what they ordered. I have to wonder if those guys have ever SEEN an Alaskan mudflat. Last time I was in Anchorage, I flew with a bush pilot. For thirty minutes of the flight–at 120 mph–we were over mudflats, and the end was not in sight. Don’t put mud into the water indeed!
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