Roads to Nowhere

Photo by: Michele Cornelius

The last couple of years we have watched our ferry system suffer due to budget cuts and the State of Alaska’s unwillingness to prioritize and address critical maintenance costs.

Alaska Marine Highway

For 50 years SEACC has worked to defeat unnecessary and exorbitant road projects across Southeast Alaska. Instead we have long supported, advocated and defended The Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS). The “Blue Canoes” are an essential service linking Southeast Alaskans and communities, in times of both celebration and sadness, for education, athletics, and cultural exchange, and to facilitate commerce, economic development, and access to basic goods and services. Most importantly Alaska’s ferry system doesn’t serve just one community — the marine highway is critical to all Southeast Alaskans and works to connect our island-bound communities.

Juneau Access Road

The most notorious road to nowhere is the Juneau Access Road. Often called the zombie road because it never seems to fully go away, this project has been resurrected from the dead several times since it was first proposed in the early 1990s. This blog from our previous executive director Emily Ferry gives a good overview of the history of the Juneau Access Road from the early 1990s to 2016. In July 2018, SEACC celebrated the end of the Juneau Access Road when the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) released their Record of Decision, selecting the no-build alternative for the Juneau Access Project, putting an end to the Juneau Road.

The decision protected U.S. taxpayers and travelers in Southeast Alaska while preserving the largest roadless area on the Tongass National Forest, areas of great cultural significance to the Aak’w Kwáan, the original settlers of Juneau, and the abundant fisheries and wildlife resources of Berners Bay. SEACC is constantly monitoring the Juneau Access Road issue and if/when it rears its ugly head again — we’ll be ready!

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Map

The Kake Access Project

The Kake Access Project is a pet project of Alaska State Senator Bert Stedman. In 2012 Senator Stedman worked within the legislature to appropriate a whopping $40 million of State funds for a project originally intended to construct a route from Kake to Petersburg to provide access for an electrical intertie and build two shuttle ferry terminalsThe intertie project is now on hold and the road will no longer connect to Petersburg! Furthermore, what was once a 22-mile project funded at $40 million has now been whittled down to just 5.39 miles for the same cost.

As currently proposed, heading east from Kake, the project would incorporate approximately 42 miles of existing U.S. Forest Service roads while constructing 5.39 miles of new road, a bridge over Twelvemile Creek, and a concrete boat launch to access Frederick Sound from Kake. In June 2020, SEACC joined Earthjustice and Alaska Rainforest Defenders in submitting a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requesting the required tribal consultation and public hearings be conducted and an environmental impact statement to be completed. The letter highlighted legal requirements the Corps must comply with including federal Clean Water act regulations. SEACC, Earthjustice, and Alaska Rainforest Defenders have not received an official response from the Army Corps. The latest information regarding the project can be found within this KFSK story. SEACC is continuing to work with Alaska Rainforest Defenders and Earthjustice to monitor the project and when necessary inform and activate Southeast Alaskan’s to demand the Kake Access Project be stopped and pressure the State legislature to reallocate funds.