State, Ahtna settle Klutina Lake Road access - Must Read Alaska
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Sunday, December 15, 2019
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State, Ahtna settle Klutina Lake Road access

KLUTINA KING SALMON FISHING SEASON STARTS JULY 1 

Attorney General Kevin G. Clarkson says the State has partially settled the longstanding dispute over Klutina Lake Road, a popular route that runs along the Klutina River to a fishing grounds used by thousands of Alaskans. The road crosses through Native land that has been historically used as a trail and road; the road is owned by the State. The Ahtna Corporation wants to control access through its land.

The agreement says that there is a 100-foot right-of-way along the length of the road, starting at the New Richardson Highway and extending to the end of the road at Klutina Lake. But the agreement includes a caveat, as activities like camping and parking along the roadway is not resolved except for emergencies.

[Read Fish and Game information about this year’s fishing at Klutina]

The State and Ahtna can both appeal the portions where there is not agreement to the Alaska Supreme Court. These are non transportation uses, such as camping, launching boats and parking within the right of way.

“This settlement is a long time coming, and I appreciate the hard work of our attorneys and Ahtna’s attorneys in reaching an agreement,” Clarkson said. “This settlement recognizes the State’s right-of-way and protects the public’s access to Klutina River and Klutina Lake.

The settlement includes the following terms:

  • 100-foot right-of-way established under federal Revised Statute 2477 along the road in its current location from Copper Center to Klutina Lake (50 feet on each side of the centerline of the road);
  • 100-foot rights-of-way (extending from the road to the ordinary high water mark of Klutina River) at the Airstrip and Boys’ Camp to ensure public access to the river;
  • Ahtna, Inc.’s trespass and nuisance claims will be dismissed with prejudice;
  • The State’s claim for a right-of-way along the north shore of the lake will be dismissed without prejudice (meaning the State’s claim to this right-of-way is preserved and can be decided in the future);
  • The appeal rights of both parties are preserved (including issues regarding the scope of use, width, and aboriginal title); and
  • Each side will bear its own costs and fees.

This case began in 2008 when Ahtna sued the State of Alaska, alleging trespass.

The State argued that the road is covered by a federal Revised Statute 2477 (RS 2477) right-of-way over which the public has a right to travel, and that, as with other State-owned rights-of-way, the public may camp, park, and launch boats from within the right-of-way.

RS 2477 is the old mining law that established public rights-of-way by public use or a State’s acceptance of the right-of-way, over certain federal or former federal lands.

Under the settlement, the parties agree that the State has a right-of-way over the Klutina Lake Road, but the parties can also appeal certain points of law that had been determined by the superior court.

The State will appeal Judge Guidi’s ruling that restricted the use of the road to only ingress and egress; the State believes overnight camping and parking are also lawful uses by the public. Until the appeal is complete, these questions remain unresolved, and the public should be cautious in how they use the road until the Alaska Supreme Court has ruled.

The Department of Law said that Alaskans should be aware that unless and until the appeal is resolved in favor of the State, Ahtna’s land use policy requires a land use permit for activities on Ahtna lands, including camping or parking, unless in an emergency.

Other questions that may be appealed also include whether Ahtna’s claim of aboriginal title prevented the creation of an RS 2477 right-of-way.

Map of agreed upon right-of-way and its location 

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comment

  • That’s one of the oldest roads in the State. Glad to see it remain so.

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