More than a matter of fuel

Letter to the editor

Posted: Tuesday, January 16, 2007

I would like to respond to John Norton's letter (Jan. 11) concerning ferry fuel usage versus the amount of fuel that would be consumed by vehicular traffic up the proposed Lynn Canal road. For me, it is a trade-off between added ferry fuel usage and the value of not having a road slicing up the east side of Lynn Canal.

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If it was simply a matter of fuel, it would obviously be a no-brainer. Build the road. Nevertheless, there are other values that come into play. One is safety. How do we weigh fuel usage against the risk of death through accidents from avalanches that travelers of this highway will face? With the prospect of icy roads, windy conditions and winter avalanches, it seems to me there will be a high risk of accidents and fatalities on this road.

One need only consider the traffic accident rate on the old Turnagain Arm road near Anchorage - another narrow, two-lane highway winding along a broken Alaska coast. It was later straightened and widened, but those options might not be available along the cliffs north of Berners Bay.

Another value for me is the preservation of Berners Bay and the Kahtzehin. Maintaining their natural beauty is of high value for me, particularly because there is an option for transport north out of Juneau.

You could look at it as similar to the issue of DDT. While its terrible long-term consequences to birds and other wildlife were made evident decades ago, some countries are still using DDT because of its effectiveness in combating malaria. If someone close to you gets malaria, you are probably going to demand the use of DDT, despite the dwindling numbers of migratory birds. But what really needs to happen is the development of an effective substitute to the use of DDT. I suspect that because they can rely on DDT, the chemical companies don't spend a lot of research money finding a substitute for it. Nevertheless, we have a substitute for pushing a road north, as long as it's managed well.

Thus for me, the issue of the high consumption of fuel by the ferries becomes a trade-off in values. I more highly esteem safety and beauty over fuel consumption. Am I therefore more conservative because I value lives and want to preserve the beauty of upper Lynn Canal? Perhaps.

Steve Wolf


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