Ambler Road EIS comment period opens

Kobuk River-Pearl Gomez 4-12-19
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The Bureau of Land Management opened public comment on the proposed Ambler Road < a href="https://www.blm.gov/programs/planning-and-nepa/plans-in-development/alaska/AmblerRoadEIS">draft environmental impact statement, billing it as a "Road to Resources," while environmental groups called the project wasteful and environmentally damaging.

The Northern Alaska Environmental Center said the road passes through ecologically valuable land. If built, the center wrote in a press release, "it would cross approximately 2,900 streams and 11 major rivers—threatening salmon, whitefish, and sheefish in the Kobuk River watershed."

It would also pass through the range of the Wester Arctic Caribou Herd, whose population was estimated around 259,000 animals in 2017.

The road would cross 61 percent state lands, 15 percent Alaska Native corporation lands, and 24 percent federal lands managed by the BLM and the National Park Service in the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve.

The Northern Alaska Environmental Center also said the project simply doesn't pencil out. They say it's already cost the state $28 million in planning, and the state projects it construction would cost about $430 million. They say that the actual costs will likely be higher.

"Alaska residents tracking the project expect the actual costs to be upwards of $1 billion as remote projects along difficult terrain are particularly costly," they wrote adding that a single Canadian company is likely to be the beneficiary.

BLM says that the project will generate 486 jobs during construction, and 68 full-time jobs thereafter.

The public comment lasts 45 days. The Northern Alaska Environmental Center says that period "is far too short to allow for adequate feedback from the public, particularly those who live in the region and spend the summer and fall months hunting, fishing, and processing food."

Officials with BLM say that they have been conducting extensive public engagement.

“The BLM conducted extensive public outreach for this project and visited many remote communities that would be most affected by the road,” said BLM Alaska State Director Chad Padgett in a press release. “I realize the importance of this project to the State of Alaska and for the state’s ability to develop its resources and as such, I am committed to ensuring a thorough and comprehensive analysis. This can’t be done without substantive input from stakeholders.”

BLM says it will be conducting public meetings in Alatna, Allakaket, Ambler, Anaktuvuk Pass, Anchorage, Bettles, Coldfoot, Evansville, Fairbanks, Hughes, Huslia, Kiana, Kobuk, Kotzebue, Noatak, Noorvik, Selawik, Shungnak, Stevens Village, Tanana, Wiseman and Washington, D.C. with times to be determined.

The public comment period will end on Oct. 15.

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