Consider other towns in the EIS

Posted: Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Today the environmental impact statement for the road out of Juneau was ordered to be completed. One of the comments I heard was Skagway and Haines don't want the road and why should they, they already have one. I as a resident of Skagway would like to speak for myself.

While I was the mayor of Skagway from 1998 to 2001 the road up the canal was a major topic of discussion. During that time Skagway took a vote to support or not support the road. In that election Skagway by a 57 to 43 percent margin voted not to support the road.

That is the message I took to Juneau. While that angered many people, I as the elected representative of Skagway stood my ground. After all, I represented the desires of the community, regardless of how I felt about the road.

If another vote were taken it may well be different. One thing for sure, there are some reasons for not supporting the road, not just the fact that we already have a road.

The worry that some small businesses may fail, the potential that the Legislature would not maintain the current level of ferry service seeing a road on the horizon, the impacts on the local air carriers, the medical clinic, and city services are others.

Like it or not, Juneau, they are real; we who live here depend on these services and to be concerned about them shouldn't be perceived as ridiculous or anti-Juneau.

In the last local election in Juneau the road failed to gain majority support. That tells me the residents of Juneau as well as Haines and Skagway need convincing to support the road out of Juneau.

Any community who feels a proposed road or in Juneau's case a legislative move would be a negative impact for their community would understandably resist the change.

We need to work this out together, working out all concerns. We need to be considerate of each other, understanding that the road will impact each community in different ways.

If in the end the road is built I will not fall on my sword. I and others just want to be considered in the process not steamrolled or ignored.

As I've already stated, a new vote could reveal different results. The promise that a fast ferry would be the No. 2 priority of the ferry system for Lynn Canal was not kept, and now it's the No. 5 priority, which has caused some people to change their mind and support the road.

I respect the desires of those in support of the road. What will decide the issue is a clear definition of where the state will go. If no commitment is made to increase ferry service as promised in Skagway by Bob Doll, then that in my mind will settle it for most people. After all, access is important to most of us and either one could accomplish that. The problem is the state needs to pick one and get totally behind it before they could sell the idea to the majority of the impacted citizens.

John Mielke


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