The Ambler Mining District Industrial Access Project had its first public hearing on the draft environmental impact statement on Tuesday and although the room wasn’t packed, a steady stream of people testified before the 8 pm close of business.
Most who testified at the Bureau of Land Management’s hearing were against the road.
They cited various reasons, including fears that Native women from villages in the region might be abused in the “man camps” of any proposed mines, and that truckers going through the region may float bottles of booze down river to villages that are dry, a form of bootlegging.
The limited-access road would link the Dalton Highway to the Ambler Mining District and cross approximately 200 miles of currently roadless area. Some 20 miles of the road would cross National Park Service land, but federal law dictates that the NPS must allow access for this road, which would not be open to the public.
The Ambler Mining District has been explored for decades, but it wasn’t until the Parnell Administration was a serious effort made to begin access. In 2009, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities began evaluating multiple road and railroad routes, and ultimately a potential corridor was identified as the preferred route from the Dalton Highway to the Ambler Mining District, through Gates of the Arctic National Preserve. In 2013, the project was transferred from DOT&PF to AIDEA.
Many of the two dozen comments related to preservation and a desire to keep the area undisturbed. Neither the Alaska Mining Association nor the Alaska Chamber of Commerce had representatives, possibly because the time for the hearing was changed earlier in the day and the organizations were not able to have representatives during the later hour.
Other public hearings will be held in Alatna, Allakaket, Ambler, Anaktuvuk Pass, Bettles, Coldfoot, Evansville, Fairbanks, Hughes, Huslia, Kiana, Kobuk, Kotzebue, Noatak, Noorvik, Selawik, Shungnak, Stevens Village, Tanana, Wiseman and Washington, D.C. The dates, times and locations of the meetings will be announced in advance through public releases and the BLM Alaska website and social media.
Marleanna Hall, executive director of the Resource Development Council, spoke for the full three minutes she was allotted with a well-developed presentation. Other groups testifying included the Wilderness Society, Alaska Wildlife Alliance, Trilogy Metals, Alaska Audubon Society, the National Parks Conservation Association and representatives from “Defend the Sacred,” a nonprofit project of an organization called Native Movement.
Three people did not oppose the road but wanted public access. A few wanted the comment period extended, and a few others said it should not take place during hunting season. The comment period actually goes through Oct. 15.
More than one person complained that the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority does not have any Alaska Natives on its board. But they evidently forgot about Julie Anderson, commissioner of Commerce, who is a Doyon shareholder.
Comments will be accepted through OCTOBER 15, 2019.
Comments for the Draft EIS should be directed to BLM. The EIS and contact links can be found at https://www.blm.gov/programs/planning-and-nepa/plans-in-development/alaska/AmblerRoadEIS
The most direct way is to submit comments through their online comment form.
Other options include email: BLM_AK_AKSO_AmblerRoad_Comments@blm.gov
Or traditional mail to:
Ambler Road DEIS Comments
BLM Fairbanks District Office
222 University Avenue, Fairbanks AK 99709