Hurdles cleared for building road

Posted: Tuesday, March 14, 2000

After a four-year effort, Goldbelt Inc. has obtained the last of the permits it needs to build a road to Cascade Point.

Last week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cleared the way for the three-mile extension from the end of Glacier Highway near Echo Cove.

Work could begin by late summer, depending on a required wildlife study and additional surveying work, said Dave Goade, executive vice president for the Juneau Native corporation.

The gravel road, 26 feet wide, will not be much of a thoroughfare, Goade said. ``We're talking a pretty simple road here.''

But it will allow Goldbelt to do more to combat trespassing, vandalism and littering on corporation property, he said.

``We have people who are living out there sometimes,'' Goade said. ``I'm tired of chasing the problem.''

One idea under consideration with the city, which owns six acres by

the Echo Cove boat launch, is a jointly managed campground with a live-in caretaker, Goade said.

The road ties in with Goldbelt's development plans for Cascade Point, although not as immediately as corporate officials had hoped.

Coeur Alaska's proposed development of the nearby Kensington gold mine has been repeatedly delayed, making uncertain the prospect for mining support services at Cascade Point.

And Gov. Tony Knowles has decided against extending Glacier Highway to Skagway, which would have opened up the opportunity for a gas and convenience store along the way.

But there is still hope that the state could put its terminal for proposed high-speed ferries at Cascade Point instead of Auke Bay, Goade said.

The ferries would save 50 miles on each round trip to the end of Lynn Canal, he noted.

A high-speed ferry could travel from Cascade Point to Haines, Skagway and back in five hours, said Goldbelt President and CEO Gary Droubay.

The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, which opposed the U.S. Forest Service's environmental impact statement on the road to Cascade Point, is still concerned about the ultimate development there, said grass roots organizer Marc Wheeler.

``Basically, they want to have a new community out there,'' Wheeler said. ``The question is, do we want Berners Bay as our backyard wilderness, or do we want it as an industrial area?''

The Forest Service should spearhead the creation of an overall plan for Berners Bay, he said. The impact of proposed development on a key herring spawning area, for example, should be considered before Goldbelt moves ahead, he said.

And while Goldbelt's development plans have taken some setbacks, the corporation is still lobbying for Cascade Point as the best site for docking the fast ferries, Wheeler said. ``The bond package (funding the ferry) hasn't passed the Legislature yet.''

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