Imagine the avalanche danger if road is built

Letter to the editor

Posted: Monday, April 23, 2007

It has been interesting to hear Juneau's new avalanche report on the radio and learn of potential dangers on a daily basis. This report covers only the danger of avalanches from mountains around downtown Juneau. It makes me imagine what the report would be like if a road is built along the Lynn Canal to a ferry terminal near the Katzehin River.

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With 58 avalanche chutes along the proposed roadway, I can only envision a report that would raise blood pressures and keep many from traveling the road. The draft environmental impact statement states that "large avalanche paths have classic, high elevation starting zones, and track and runout characteristics which promote frequent and large avalanches."

There are nine large avalanche paths identified on this proposed road and 10 very large avalanche paths. Paths identified as very large are "bigger than anything on the existing Southeast Alaska road system. They produce more frequent and larger avalanches." Paths classified as large and very large are 33 percent of the total number of paths identified in the report. I would not be willing to play Russian roulette with these chutes. Let's ask our neighbors in Haines how many times their highway has been closed this winter.

The costs of building this dangerous and unnecessary road, let alone maintaining a 50-mile extension from the current end of the road, will be extraordinarily high. As we have witnessed this winter, the Department of Transportation has been kept very busy plowing Juneau's roads with a limited maintenance budget. It is highly doubtful state snowplows and avalanche control teams will be able to maintain a road so far north of town, in an area that receives even more snow than Juneau. Icy conditions on our existing roads are difficult enough to contend with. How much time would be required to distribute gravel and sand over another 50 miles of road during the winter?

We should lend our support to newly appointed Deputy Commissioner Dennis Hardy and ask him to provide reliable ferry service to Southeast Alaska communities that are marine dependent. With the Legislature in the middle of making operating budget decisions, we need to ask them to support our Alaska ferries.

Deborah Rudis


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