Highway plan would have smallest effect on fish habitat

Posted: Friday, December 03, 2004

KENAI - Upgrading the Sterling Highway near Cooper Landing by moving the road north across Juneau Creek probably would have the least impact on anadromous fish habitat of three alternatives, according to a report prepared for the state.

The project to redesign the road from Mile 45 to 60 has been a hot topic for several years.

State planners have said the road needs to be redesigned to meet federal standards. The estimated cost is more than $50 million and no money has been designated for it.

The section under review is a narrow two-lane road that winds through the Kenai Mountains along the Kenai River. Accidents are common and one involving a diesel tanker truck caused petroleum to leak into the river.

The new report was compiled by HDR Alaska as part of its preparation of a supplemental environmental impact statement.

The report did not conclude which alternative would be most friendly to fish habitat. Alaska Department of Transportation project engineer Miriam Tanaka cautioned it is not the final word on the effect of potential alternatives.

"We're still in the process of developing the final document," Tanaka told the Peninsula Clarion.

Tanaka said the fisheries evaluation will be included in the final supplemental EIS, expected to be completed by next fall.

The study looked at streams that would be affected by each route. Most of the waterways were small tributaries and many were dry creek beds. The report noted that the information was collected in September, when the Kenai Peninsula was unusually dry.

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