FARIBANKS, Alaska — Federal officials have scheduled a series of public meetings to hear residents’ thoughts on a proposed 200-mile (322-kilometer) road that would connect northwest Alaska with the Dalton Highway and Fairbanks, but wouldn’t be open to the public.
The Ambler Road Project has been in the works since 2014, drawing heavy criticism from Interior Alaska residents concerned about industrial contamination and increased access to traditional hunting and fishing grounds, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported . The road would be closed to the public and only be open for mine access.
The hearings are a part of the Federal Bureau of Land Management’s environmental impact statement on the project, which must be completed before permitting can begin.
Proponents of the project said contamination and increased access concerns will be addressed as the project goes through environmental studies and permitting.
The project, proposed by the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, lost funding in 2015 when Gov. Bill Walker shelved it and five other megaprojects amid budget concerns. Walker later said he would allow the state to spend as much as $3.6 million of the $8 million that was set aside for the project to begin the environmental review.
The route of the proposed road would cross state land, Alaska Native corporation land and some BLM-managed land. The route includes approximately 26 miles (41 kilometers) through Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, a crossing allowed under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.
A March estimate placed the cost to build the road at up to $346 million, with operating and maintenance costs for the expected life of the road to be $270 million.
Expected revenue from the road would range between $988 million and just over $1 billion in tolls. The net revenue after financing costs would between $143 million to $153 million throughout 30 years.
Neil Steininger, chief budget analyst for Alaska’s Office of Management and Budget, said there is no state funding allocated to the project in the fiscal 2018 budget.
The schedule of public hearings can be found at the Bureau of Land Management’s website .
Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com