The Alaska Department of Natural Resources recently extended the comment period on two key state decisions related to the proposed road to the Ambler Mining District. We now have until April 1 to comment on AIDEA’s application for the easement and the associated Site Specific Land Use Plan, which would determine the land management practices for the area. The easement is a key permit for the 61% of this 211-mile road that crosses state lands. The Biden administration recently admitted there are legal problems with the related federal right-of-way permits that will require further review.
On March 11, the state held a virtual listening session, and Alaskans filled two hours with questions and comments unanimously opposing the state’s issuance of an easement or Site Specific Plan for the private industrial road. By the end of the session, we came to expect the refrain “I don’t know” from Department of Natural Resources staff, who were unable to answer questions ranging from how many vehicles are expected to use the road (a caller noted that this information is included in the Environmental Impact Statement: 168 trucks daily) to how Tribal consultation will be conducted and integrated into the state’s decision.
DNR should not approve the easement or the Site Specific Plan for this industrial access road.
A second listening session is planned for Tuesday. March 29, from 12:30-2:30 pm. This session was announced after several people commented on the inadequate opportunity for public input, short notice, and technological challenges especially for rural Alaskans. It’s unknown if additional personnel will be available to answer questions, but either way, this listening session is an opportunity to get comments and questions on the record, and to hear what other concerned Alaskans have to say about the proposed road. It’s very clear from the powerful testimony in the first session that Alaskans have a lot of questions, and deserve answers.
One of the main considerations for DNR with the easement is whether the road is in the public interest. Your comments can include all the reasons you believe this road is not in the public interest. Here are some points you can use to write your comments:
Explain who you are and why you’re opposed to the road:
- I live in ______, and I am opposed to the Ambler road because _____________.
o Examples: it will harm lands and waters I value; it will impact my/my community’s ability to hunt in the region; it is a waste of state money that should be invested in helping Alaskans
- I am concerned about impacts to _____________.
o Examples: caribou, fish, water, my way of life, my community, cultural resources, my ability to recreate in the area, the cost to the state
· This project isn’t in the best interest of the state and shouldn’t be allowed because _____________.·
Some key points you might want to address:
- DNR is relying heavily on the federal government’s review of this project for its review of the easement. But the federal government recently admitted in two lawsuits related to the Ambler Road that it did not adequately consider impacts to subsistence, caribou, water resources, and cultural resources. DNR should not approve AIDEA’s easement when there are so many problems with the federal permits.
- The total cost of building, operating, and maintaining this project is conservatively expected to cost upwards of 1.4 billion dollars. The state should not be investing public money in private speculative industry projects that provide no guarantees for recovery of those funds.
- DNR’s site-specific plan contains no information about how DNR will protect existing uses in the region or address the serious impacts of this project. The Plan just assumes — wrongly — that building a massive industrial road through the area won’t harm subsistence, recreation, or wildlife.
Remember, even brief comments highlighting Alaskans’ values matter. You don’t need to be an expert to know that this road is a bad idea.