JUNEAU, Alaska (KINY) - There was a discussion on Action Line Thursday with a representative of the group that challenged the original Juneau Access Project environmental impact statement calling for a road to the Katzehin River on the east side of Lynn Canal and ferry service from there to Haines and Skagway.
Governor Walker opted to go with the "No Build" alternative in the revised EIS. Emily Ferry of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council was asked if they were disappointed that the governor didn't opt for the alternative calling for enhanced ferry service.
"I think that the no-action alternative that the governor chose was perhaps the simplest way to close out the project and move forward," stated Ferry. "I think putting this really decisive issue behind us is a smart thing to do. I think that it does not foreclose on working together to improve access to Juneau, particularly through the Marine Highway System. I think it's also important to note that the no-action alternative actually includes two brand new ferries that are being built for us in Ketchikan and will be coming online in either 2018 or 2019. Those are dedicated to the Lynn Canal and to providing daily service to Haines and Skagway.
Ferry said the governor's decision puts the issue behind us, but is that really the case given requests by road proponents to preserve the funds earmarked for the project?
"I think in a time of fiscal crisis and intense news across the state that there are better ways we could spend that money," said Ferry. "In this point in time, we could be using those funds to be putting people to work right now, within the next year or two, whether that's improving the intersection at Fred Meyer or working toward a boat yard here in Juneau. The governor has said that it's his desire to spend the 48-million dollars that the legislature had appropriated for this project on capital and transportation projects in the region, and there are certainly plenty of those. We also know that Haines needs a new fuel dock, a new barge dock there, and in Skagway they need a new ferry dock so they can accept those new Alaska class ferries."
SEACC went to court challenging the original EIS complaining that DOT planners needed to take a closer look at a ferry alternative. The courts agreed.