Gov. Bill Walker announced today the State has come to an tentative agreement with Ahtna Corp. over the public right of way on the Klutina Lake Road.
Pertinent settlement terms Ahtna and the State have agreed to, as described by his office, include:
- Relocation of public parking and other facilities at the Gulkana River boat launch to protect historic townsite and cemetery
- A 100-foot-wide state highway right-of-way along Klutina Lake Road
- Fishing, daytime parking, and boating access (without a trailer) from the Klutina Lake Road right-of-way
- Three locations along Klutina Lake Road where the public can launch boats using trailers
- Camping and overnight parking opportunities provided by Ahtna for a reasonable fee outside of the Klutina Lake Road right-of-way, including at Boys’ Camp
- A new 50-foot-wide state right-of-way to connect Klutina Lake Road to state land on Klutina Lake that has excellent potential for public recreation and hunting
The State is accepting public comment on the settlement that will give the public limited access to Klutina Lake and other waterways. Deadline for public comment is Aug. 30.
“This agreement is a good-faith effort to balance private ownership and public access needs,” said Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth. “While every settlement involves give and take, both sides were able to address the issues most important to them in this proposed settlement, including maintaining reasonable public access, and avoid the uncertainty of a long trial and likely appeal. The state will go to court when it makes sense, but we believe a settlement in this case provides a better opportunity to protect access to state lands and waters.”
The proposed settlement could end litigation between Ahtna and the State of Alaska regarding property interests and use of Klutina Lake Road.
It could resolve long-standing impacts to the Gulkana historic cemetery and townsite — while maintaining public access to fishing areas and outdoor recreation, according to a press release from the governor..
“During my visit to Gulkana last year, traditional Chief Fred Ewan told me he would like his village to regain ownership of his people’s ancestral land and burial sites,” Gov. Walker said. “I listened. The state has been locked in costly litigation for too long. I applaud Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth and Ahtna for coming to an agreement that protects public access to land while finally correcting this 50-year wrong.”
The lawsuit was filed by Ahtna in 2008, claiming the state was trespassing over Native lands by allowing the public to use the historic road.
The State, under former Gov. Sean Parnell, counterclaimed, saying the public has a public right-of-way under federal Revised Statute 2477. Both parties agreed there is an existing public road, but they disagreed on the width, scope of use and the State’s property interests in the road. The parties attempted to settle the lawsuit unsuccessfully under the prior administration.
Gov. Walker’s Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth began negotiating an agreement in 2016, and her actions nearly cost her her confirmation by the Legislature.
In January, the parties again began working through a mediator. After initially failing to come to agreement with the mediator, the parties continued discussions and agreed upon a settlement framework that included the “must haves” for the State (a 100-foot-wide right-of-way and ensuring the public’s ability to continue using the road to access outdoor activities) and for Ahtna (minimizing impacts to its private property rights and enabling Ahtna to better manage its lands and resources).
Copies of the proposed settlement agreement, maps, Judge Guidi’s order, the initial settlement framework (Klutina Lake Road – Framework) and a question-and-answer sheet can be found at www.gov.alaska.gov/klutina-gulkana-settlement. Copies of the material can be obtained from Department of Natural Resources in Suite 1260 of the Atwood Building, 550 W. 7th Ave., in Anchorage, or the Fairbanks Public Information Center at 3700 Airport Way.
Public meetings will be held in:
- Gulkana – Tuesday, Aug. 1, from 3-5 pm at the Gulkana Hall, Gulkana, (traveling north on Richardson Highway, turn right at the sign for the village after the Gulkana River bridge)
- Glennallen – Tuesday, Aug. 1 from 6:30-8:30 pm at the Alaska Bible College-Murdock Campus Center at 200 College Road
- Anchorage – Wednesday, Aug. 2 from 6-8 pm in Room 104 of the Atwood Building, 550 West 7th Avenue
- Wasilla – Thursday, Aug. 3 from 6-8 pm in Meeting Room 1-3, Curtis D. Menard Memorial Sports Center, at 1001 S. Clapp Street
- Fairbanks – Monday, Aug. 7, from 6-8 pm in the Noel Wien Library auditorium, located at 1215 Cowles Street
Meetings will consist of informational sessions where details of the proposed settlement will be explained, followed by an opportunity for the public to provide comments.
Written comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to Department of Law, c/o Natural Resources Section – Klutina/Gulkana Comments, 1031 W. 4th Ave., Suite 200, Anchorage, AK 99501-1994. Written comments must be received by Aug. 30.
The full settlement agreement is posted on the governor’s web site.