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Goldbelt forges ahead on road to Cascade Point

CEO: Decision against road out of Juneau may aid plans to develop property

Posted: Thursday, January 27, 2000

Goldbelt officials are disappointed a state transportation plan for Southeast Alaska doesn't include a new ferry terminal on the company's land at Cascade Point.

The company will continue with its own plans to extend a road to the point at Berners Bay, Goldbelt CEO Joe Beedle said.

``Our desire to utilize our property is not diminished by the governor's announcement,'' Beedle said. ``In fact, it may help us get approval.'' The fact that a ferry terminal isn't part of the plan may reduce environmental concerns, he said.

Goldbelt, Juneau's urban Native corporation, has been planning for about four years to build a 2.5-mile road from the end of Glacier Highway to Cascade Point, about 40 miles north of downtown.

Possible uses of the property Goldbelt has discussed have included a marine terminal for a state ferry and tour boats, as well as a barge dock, support facilities and housing for possible future mining operations to the north.

Gov. Tony Knowles announced Monday that his solution to a transportation bottleneck in northern Lynn Canal involved adding new fast ferries to the state's aging fleet, including one dedicated to the Juneau-Skagway-Haines route.

Knowles decided against building a road all the way from Juneau to Skagway. He also said the ferries would continue to run from the existing Auke Bay ferry terminal, dashing hopes that a new terminal would be built at Cascade Point, some 30 miles north of the Auke Bay terminal.

Proponents of the Cascade terminal said it would shave time off the ferry trip and cut costs.

Knowles spokesman Bob King said there were several reasons the governor did not recommend locating a ferry terminal at Cascade Point.

``One is the state just finished a $5.6 million upgrade of the Auke Bay terminal,'' he said.

He also said moving the terminal wouldn't save a lot of ferry travel time, and would require most ferry users to drive farther.

A lack of support among some local residents for extending the road was a third reason, King said. ``One of the governor's conditions he announced was (the transportation solution) has to have broad public support.''

Dennis Poshard of the state Department of Transportation said having a fast ferry, which can travel about 32 knots, depart from Cascade Point would save only about 30 minutes in travel time - and nothing on travelers' fares.

A Cascade departure would save more time on trips by slower ferries, Poshard said.

However, he said, the distance to Cascade Point could have been a problem for passengers arriving on ferries at Auke Bay, who would have to transfer to the fast-ferry terminal at Cascade.

David Goade, vice president of lands at Goldbelt, said he believes the Cascade location would save more travel time, particularly considering the time involved in a round trip.

Juneau Republican Rep. Bill Hudson, who sits on the House Transportation Committee, said he will continue to try to convince the Knowles administration there's merit to moving the terminal to Cascade Point.

Goldbelt CEO Beedle believes the state may eventually decide to move the ferry terminal to Cascade or build a road all the way to Skagway. Goldbelt would benefit from either of development because a road would also cross company land.

But he said Goldbelt has reasons to build a road to the point regardless of what the state does.

The company wants to put in a campground on the property and provide other recreational and cultural opportunities for shareholders, Beedle said. Goldbelt also will be able to manage the property more effectively with road access. Small eco-tourism operations, such as kayaking trips, are also possible.

``We see at this time our own demand supporting this minimal road,'' Beedle said.

Goldbelt's planned road is smaller than one proposed earlier. The company dropped plans for a dock and wants to clear just a 75foot corridor for a 26-foot-wide road. The company earlier proposed a 150-foot-wide corridor.

``It's really more of a logging road,'' Beedle said.

The company has received U.S. Forest Service approval for the road and is in the midst of the permit application process with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.



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