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The supplemental Draft EIS is soon to be released for Juneau Access and I'm curious if all the up-to-date information will be a part of this document.
The Fairweather has proven successful when given a chance to run a consistent schedule up the Lynn Canal. Even Gov. Frank Murkowski acknowledged that fact in front of the Alaska Travel Industry Association in Fairbanks during its fall gathering.
Sixty-two percent of Skagway citizens have voted for improved ferry service. This is consistent with past polls taken in the upper Lynn Canal and hopefully is strongly considered in any decision-making document the state puts forward. The city of Skagway also recently passed the Dewey Lakes Special Management Area ordinance, which seeks to preserve its most heavily used recreation area. The state Department of Transportation sent several people, including an attorney from the Department of Law, to meetings in Skagway to try to influence the vote on this plan. However the council recognized that the community wanted this ordinance and passed a very well-thought-out management plan that protects historical and future uses of this area.
The plan may require the state to look at the most prudent and feasible alternatives to a road through the Dewey Lakes Recreation Area. The alternative doesn't have to be a $70 million tunnel, as Pat Kemp from DOT suggested in a recent Empire article.
What about a successful ferry route? The Fairweather and the mainliners have shown that this route is profitable and a recent study conducted by the Lynn Canal Transportation Project, funded by a group of private citizens, shows that ferry service can be operated in the Lynn Canal at a 13 percent profit. The state also suggested that because of this recreation area, a ferry terminal would have to be built on the Katzehin River. If you look in the Southeast Area Transportation Plan they were already planning on a ferry terminal on the Katzehin.
I truly believe that the state has twisted and corrupted the planning process for Juneau Access. Officials from Skagway met with John MacKinnon of DOT this past winter to discuss their boat harbor deferred maintenance money. Before that discussion even began Mr. MacKinnon brought up the right of way through the Dewey Lakes. What did that have to do with the Skagway Boat Harbor? I was one of those officials and I got to see how the system can be abused. Thanks to some strong work by our lobbyist and Rep. Albert Kookesh we were able to secure our needed maintenance money and will soon be able to start fixing up our neglected boat harbor.
There was even an attempt to get the mayor to sign a Joint Planning Agreement without the approval of the Skagway City Council. The mayor was given no indication that had he signed this agreement that it would have precluded Section 4(f) designation.
I'm tired of the bully tactics the state continues to employ in their desire to build a road. The city of Skagway has set up a working group to try to find some common ground. The state is currently pursuing a right of way through the Lower Dewey Lakes area.
Skagway itself may not be able to stop a road through its lands, however it can and should have a say in how it manages its resources. The supplemental Draft EIS needs to have all the pertinent information up to date and needs to follow the process without being corrupted to drive a certain agenda. If it does not then the process has failed
Mike Korsmo is a member of the Skagway City Council.