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Despite opposition, costly Ambler Road advances

Posted by Northern Center at Dec 04, 2015 09:29 PM |

As most Alaskans prepared for Thanksgiving, the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority on Tuesday, November 24 quietly submitted to the National Park Service a right-of-way application for the proposed Ambler Road, and a separate application to the U.S. Army Corps of engineers. Federal law requires the Park Service to respond to AIDEA’s application nine months after the date of submittal (Aug. 24, 2016) while the Corps has more time.

The Brooks Range Council | The Wilderness Society 

Northern Alaska Environmental Center

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA (Nov. 27, 2015) – As most Alaskans prepared for Thanksgiving, the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority on Tuesday quietly submitted to the National Park Service a right-of-way application for the proposed Ambler Road, and a separate application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Federal law requires the Park Service to respond to AIDEA’s application nine months after the date of submittal (Aug. 24, 2016) while the Corps has more time. 

These are the first official submittals for approvals of this costly road project. The estimated cost for the project—not including maintenance and operations—is hundreds of millions of dollars, and none of that money is expected to come from the federal government. We question why the state would move forward with this project with billions in annual state deficits and with the need to find several billion dollars to fund state ownership in the export gas pipeline. 

The proposed Ambler Road, also known as the Ambler Mining District Industrial Access Road, would connect the mining district to the Dalton Highway with approximately 200 miles of road. The primary beneficiary of the road would be the mining industry, which provides less than 2 percent of annual unrestricted state revenues, compared with the 80 percent or more provided by the oil industry. With many bridges needed and the remoteness of this region, the cost of the Ambler Road easily could exceed $1 billion.

 “As currently proposed, this road would not connect to a single village in the region and would only benefit one Canadian mine company that is incapable of financially supporting the project. The people in the area do not support such a disastrous plan and it is unclear why the governor and AIDEA do,” said John Gaedeke from the Brooks Range Council. 

“Our members are concerned about the extensive damage this costly project and the mining it will facilitate will do to one of Interior’s great natural landscapes,” said Elisabeth Dabney, executive director of the Northern Alaska Environmental Center. 

“Why would the state subsidize the mining industry when we need that money for the gas line?” asked Lois Epstein, an engineer and Arctic program director for The Wilderness Society. “AIDEA staff has not shown that this road can come anywhere close to full funding by NovaCopper and the other mining companies planning to operate in the region.”

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