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GSACC Protests Juneau Road $35 Million Capital Budget Item

GSACC sent this letter to Governor Parnell on May 1:  [Download]

Governor Sean Parnell
P.O. Box 110001
Juneau, AK 99811

Dear Governor Parnell

Subject: Legislature’s Proposed $35 Million Capital Budget Item – Juneau Access Project

As a region-wide organization with a board and membership consisting primarily of Southeast Alaska
residents, the Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community urges you to veto the $35 million
appropriation included in the Legislature’s Capital Budget for work on a segment of the proposed
Juneau Access project – a road between Juneau and the Katzehin River.

We understand that the purpose of this legislation is to secure matching federal highway funds.
However, it is premature to appropriate funds for this project before the Draft Environmental Impact
Statement (DEIS) is made available for public review, particularly in light of other important funding
needs in Alaska like maintenance of existing infrastructure and education.

As a conservation organization, we are deeply concerned whether the DEIS will sufficiently address
the monetary and non-monetary costs of the proposed road project as they relate to public resources
such as wildlife, water quality, and salmon runs. In particular, five of our nine Board members are or
were active commercial fishermen with decades of experience in fishery habitat issues and we are
concerned about road construction impacts on the fishery business because road construction can
adversely affect water quality and fish habitat in numerous ways through erosion, fish passage
restrictions and habitat fragmentation.

Further, there have been serious questions as to the validity of the Alaska Department of
Transportation and Public Facilities’ estimates of both the direct and indirect costs of the Juneau
Access Project and the potential benefits that would result from it. For example, there are 36
avalanche chutes and 112 identified land and rock slide areas in the proposed 50-mile road extension
which are likely to cost more to address than DOT&PF has heretofore estimated. There have also
been serious questions about the assumptions and validity of the department’s cost comparison
between the Alaska Marine Highway System’s operation in Lynn Canal and the road.

Again, the matter of how well DOT&PF has considered these issues as well as the other
environmental risks needs to be the subject of thorough analysis in the DEIS and should not be
presumed by a $35 million appropriation before the fact. In sum, we request that you allow for the
democratic process and public review to occur prior to any further appropriation of funds.


Paul Olson

May 3, 2014 at 9:58 am