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Stebbins Native council may oust gravel project foe 7-07

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - A Stebbins woman is accused of undermining the village's economy in her efforts against two proposed gravel projects.

Patricia Henry decided to fight the projects proposed by the Stebbins village corporation when she became convinced it would harm marine life and subsistence gathering.

The opposition has prompted corporation officials to tell shareholders that they don't own village land, the corporation does. Shareholders, however, could organize and eject their leaders if they don't like their decisions.

Local tribal officials are considering removing Henry from the village tribal council, saying she didn't properly perform her council duties.

A former board member of the village corporation, Henry submitted a petition signed by 153 people opposing the gravel pits. She also filed letters of concern with federal officials and spoke out at public meetings.

"Even when speaking as shareholder, as a public official, she has to act toward the best interest of the community," said Morris Coffey, a council member who also has served as the corporation's chief operating officer for more than two decades. The corporation complained in public letters about Henry's activities, saying inaccurate and misleading information were in her petition.

Coffey said the tribal council will decide whether Henry remains in the job. The panel has filed removal proceedings against Henry, who serves as council secretary. The matter is scheduled for a closed-door hearing Monday.

Henry said she doesn't believe she violated tribal rules by speaking out against the gravel pits. She plans to fight to keep her job.

"It's been really stressful even though I know I'm doing the right thing," she said.

The corporation missed out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in expected revenue this summer because it didn't obtain a barge landing permit in time to supply gravel to a state airport renovation project in Unalakleet. Coffey and others blame Henry's protest for the permit delay.

The permit still requires more work - including an assessment of wetlands and archaeological sites - before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can issue it, according to Pat Richardson, an agency spokeswoman.

"We're awaiting a final design decision," she said.
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