Alaska applies for control of Taku River, a federal waterway

River should have been Alaska property since statehood, state says

The State of Alaska has applied to take control of the land under the Taku River. The lands the state is asking for are pictured in blue. (Map courtesy Bureau of Land Management)

The land under the Taku River may soon have a new owner: the State of Alaska.


The state has applied with the Bureau of Land Management to take possession of the land under the river, a federal waterway. An application was filed last year and was published in the federal register Wednesday ahead of a 90-day public comment period.

“The draft summary report has been published and we are requesting comments on that for the next 90 days. Then after we get them, they will make a determination or a recommendation for a determination, and that will be sent to the solicitor. Then the final decision will be published,” BLM spokesperson Lisa Gleason said in a phone interview Wednesday.

The state argues that it should have been granted possession of the Taku River at statehood as the river was navigable when Alaska entered the union in 1959. Several federal laws require that navigable waterways within a state be given to the state. But that didn’t happen with the Taku River, Gleason said.

The application is for what’s called a Recordable Disclaimer of Interest, or RDI. Federal law authorizes BLM to issue RDIs when it’s found that U.S. land holdings have been terminated by law or are otherwise invalid. In these situations, BLM basically plays referee when the federal government’s land holdings come into question. It’s a legal document through which BLM disclaims the federal government’s interest in the land.

RDIs have been applied for in seven rivers and a lake in the Southeast region.

The state’s application is for the submerged lands under the Taku River, from a point near the southern end of the Taku Glacier to the U.S.-Canada border. A final decision won’t be made before Sept. 18, 2018, when BLM has given time for public input.

Copies of the state application, supporting evidence, the BLM Draft Summary Report, and comments, including names and street addresses of commenters, will be available in Anchorage for public review at the BLM Alaska State Office. BLM’s Public Information Center (Public Room), is located in the Fitzgerald Federal Building, 222 West 8th Avenue. It’s open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., except holidays.


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