NOME — Residents of an Alaska village are boycotting two days of meetings being conducted by a state agency to discuss a 220-mile road to the Ambler Mining District.
Second Chief PJ Simon said community members did not believe their sentiments were adequately taken into account when the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority held a road meeting in the village of Allakaket last year, Nome radio station KNOM reported.
The road proposal is also drawing protests from other villages in the Koyukuk region.
Simon said that’s likely why the state agency is holding the two-day meeting, scheduled to conclude Thursday, in Kotzebue, which isn’t along the proposed route.
“They never go to Allakaket because they know we have a firm stance against the road,” Simon said.
Agency spokesman Karsten Rodvik said AIDEA is flying in representatives from almost all communities along the route as it conducts an environmental review of the road. He added that Kotzebue, a regional hub, has the facilities to hold a meeting of this size, including lodging and a conference room at the Nullagvik Hotel.
The hotel is owned by the NANA Development Corp., which has said it supports the agency’s review of the road but hasn’t yet taken a stance.
“This meeting is consistent with our community outreach,” Rodvik said. “We’ve had numerous meetings in communities and have publicized those meetings in the community. And through local tribal and city councils. So, we feel that we are reaching out.”
However, the radio station reports few details were publicly available ahead of the meeting, and there was no mention of it or an agenda posted on an AIDEA website devoted to the road.
Rodvik said the intent is to make sure the conversation takes place between what he called the most “immediate stakeholders,” but it’s not intended to shut anyone out.
He described the immediate stakeholders as NANA, Doyan Regional Corp., the Northwest Arctic Borough, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, National Park Service and others.