Large crowd shows up for anti-road presentation

Posted: Thursday, December 06, 2007

More than 125 people showed up at a presentation Wednesday night organized by critics of the Juneau access road and ferry project.

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Dean Williams, a 90-year resident of Juneau, laid out concerns about avalanche and rockfall raised by a geological survey and report commissioned by the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities last summer.

The study, called the Golder Report, identified a total of 112 geological

hazards along the road's route, 38 of which have either (a) been active in

the past 25 years, and the conditions that caused the hazard still exist, or

(b) the hazards would result in enough material to close the highway for

several days to weeks and substantially damage the road.

The Department of Transportation and Public Facilities estimates, according

to the report, that only two of those 38 hazards could result in enough

material to close the highway for more than one day.

The 51-mile road would run up the east of side of Lynn Canal from just north

of Berners Bay to the Katzehin River, where ferries would transport cars to

Haines and Skagway.

Road advocates say the road is a high priority for keeping the capital in Juneau, and maintaining a thriving economy in the region.

Williams said Wednesday night that at 600 feet deep, the Lynn Canal is the deepest fjord in North America. Mountains 6,000 feet high tower over the fjord, creating conditions for landslides. Williams said the amount of explosives needed to build the road would disrupt wildlife in the area, which includes haul-outs for endangered Steller's sea lions.

"When this blasting is going on, I think if I were a sea lion, I'd head to the Hawaiian Islands real fast," Williams said.

The presentation at Centennial Hall was funded by the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.

SEACC's Erika Bjorum urged the audience to contact Gov. Sarah Palin about the road.

"The governor still has the power to stop this road, and she needs to hear from you," Bjorum said.

Haines Borough Assemblyman Norm Smith also gave a speech against the road.

"I think the public is being misled on this whole thing. I don't think we are finding out how much this is really going to cost, and I think the road, if it goes anywhere, is going to go to Kensington," Smith said.

A seven-minute film also was shown that relayed a two-day traverse by two mountaineers of the proposed road route. The climbers filmed recent avalanches and rock falls, as well as steep cliffs along the 22-mile corridor that was the subject of the Golder Report.

• Contact Amanda Fehd at 523-2276 or amanda.fehd@juneauempire.com.



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