Another dead end

Posted: Thursday, April 03, 2003

As the debate goes on where to locate an access road for Juneau, some folks keep bringing up the idea of "going up the Taku." I own a cabin on the river, but I am not crying "not in my back yard." However, I want to offer several reasons why the Taku River Valley is not a viable alternative for a road out of Juneau based on today's technology.

The Tlingits used the Taku River Valley to access the interior after the Taku glacier receded about 250 years ago. Prior to that, according to the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys brochure (IC 34), the valley was covered by a lake, over 200 feet deep, created by the Taku Glacier blocking the river. The lake extended more than 40 miles inland, making the valley very young in geological terms. Although the glacier receded for many decades, geologists report the Taku is advancing and someday will likely close off the river flow.

Today, access into the river is by plane or boat and for more than seven miles, every boater must traverse a silty river bottom covered by less than two feet of water. There is not one river runner going in by boat who has not run aground. This seven-mile stretch is always changing because of tides and currents moving the sand bars. The river is flowing over the glacier ice buried deep under a load of river silt especially where the ice is pushing up against the far side of the valley at Taku Point. There is no place to build a permanent road bed even by driving piling around Taku Point. The only possible choice would be a very long tunnel for miles and miles.

Further, if the road does not cross the lower inlet and get onto the south side before Annex Creek, the route must pass directly in front of Norris, Taku and Hole in the Wall glaciers. The only viable route for a road between Annex Creek and the Taku Glacier Lodge is through the mountain on the opposite side from the glaciers. Once past the lodge, the road could go on either side of the valley, but the road must deal with the impacts of the annual Tulsequah jokulhlaup event (flooding where the river rises over eight feet in 10 hours or less). Once the road reaches the B.C. border, Canada will not commit to constructing their 70-mile portion to connect up in Atlin so our road would dead end. The proposed Tulsequah Chief mine haul road goes up another valley and will not be available as a general use road based on conditions in the B.C. mine permit.

Let's not waste precious EIS dollars looking at a route out of Juneau in the Taku valley, which would be expensive beyond one's imagination to build and to maintain. There are better choices.

Errol Champion


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