July 25, 2011
Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Re: Proposed Road to Umiat
Dear DOTPF and Army Corps:
The following are the comments of the Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition. Thank you for this chance to comment on what we believe is for many reasons a very ill-advised proposal.
The Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition (AQRC) is dedicated to protecting the rights of Alaskans to quiet places for the benefit of public land users, home and cabin owners, communities, businesses, wildlife, visitors, and future generations.Â We believe that natural quiet and natural sounds–the natural soundscape–should be recognized by all public land managers as critical resources in and of themselves that deserve no less consideration than, for example, clean air and water or fish and wildlife and their habitat.Â We also believe in a fair and balanced allocation of the public lands for both non-motorized and motorized recreation.
Since one of AQRCâ€™s major goals is to get public land management and other public agencies to responsibly manage recreational motorized vehicles, and to not undertake actions that will result in adverse effects from such vehicles, our primary organizational interest in the proposed road to Umiat is the significant increase in recreational motorized vehicle use that is certain to result if the road is built. A road to Umiat would provide 90-100 miles of access for these noisy, destructive vehicles in an area that is presently very lightly traveled. And we know very well from the Dalton Highway experience that regardless of what might be said at this time, an Umiat road, were it to be built, would eventually be open to the public. If the road is in fact built the resulting damage from recreational motorized vehicle use to soils, vegetation, clean air and water, fish and wildlife and their habitat, scenic beauty, wildlands, and the natural soundscape, would be expected to be, over time, substantial.
We understand that most local residents oppose the road, as we would expect. Impacts to local lifestyles, and to important subsistence resources, could very well be extensive. We sympathize with, and support, these local residents.
And of course the cost of the project is of interest to all Alaskans. What the final cost of the project might be is unknown, but it would likely be half a billion dollars or more. Alaska doesnâ€™t have that type of money to spend on projects that should probably be privately financed in any case, especially when the extent of the oil and gas resources that the road is supposed to access is not very well known (we understand that DNR just received money to try to make this assessment; the cart is clearly ahead of the horse). And what will the operations and maintenance costs be? Substantial, we can be sure. Alaska has serious needs for money for existing roads throughout much of the state, and those needs should be met first.
Thank you again for the chance to comment on this proposal. We strongly recommend that it not be permitted and that the project be abandoned.
Cliff Eames, Board Member
Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition
P.O. Box 202592
Anchorage, AK 99520