King Frank (Murkowski) may get the initial segment of his totally unnecessary and environmentally disastrous road North, despite the fact that a majority of his constituents in northern Southeast Alaska are against it. Even worse, the Legislature supported him. I suspect the Legislature reluctantly did that because the $45 million for the road was packaged with other capital projects they wanted and because the governor pressured them. How could anyone be intimidated by a governor who has the second-worst approval rating in the country?
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If this road is built, almost everyone loses:
1. The people who wanted to drive between Juneau and Skagway won't be able to.
2. Those of us who wanted increased ferry service from Auke Bay to Haines and Skagway won't get it. In fact, we may not have any ferry service between those points.
3. The thousands of foot passengers who now board at Auke Bay will have to take a $100-plus taxi to the terminal.
4. The fishermen who rely on fishes reared in Berners Bay will have fewer fish to catch.
5. Those of us who cherish the wilderness values of Berners Bay will find no wilderness there.
Who will prosper if the road is built? Only those who build the road, have stock in the Kensington Mine or hope to extract or harvest other natural resources in the area. They will make a great deal of money for a few years, but that is pocket change compared to the long-term monetary value of upper Lynn Canal, if it is left in its natural state.
Tourism is our second or third most important industry today, and its value keeps increasing. Tourists come to Alaska to experience something they don't have at home, and that is unspoiled wilderness and its associated values. Every road or clear-cut diminishes Alaska as a tourist destination. Leave it as it is, and tourists will flock to our shores forever.
It is ironic that this road project has gotten as far as it has, considering the massive opposition. So what can we do now? Keep the pressure on. Write letters and call appropriate officials. The road does not yet have all the required permits. It is not yet built.
And remember, next November we get to vote.
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