Alaska's lawmakers ask feds to solve Cooper Landing Bypass conflicts

Published: Jul. 19, 2017 at 1:50 PM AKDT
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Alaska’s congressional delegation and Governor Bill Walker are asking the federal government to solve conflicts that are delaying a highway project to bypass Cooper Landing on the Sterling Highway.

A bypass of a 15-mile stretch of the highway has been in the works since the 1970s, in order to reduce dangerous accidents on the congested stretch, between mileposts 45 and 60.

In a letter, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Dan Sullivan, Rep. Don Young and Gov. Bill Walker ask the U.S. Departments of Interior, Transportation and Agriculture to work together, in order to solve conflicts, between the state’s preferred re-route and the federal government’s preferred re-route.

The letter says Alaskans agree that the “Juneau Creek Alternative” is the best route for the highway. It would run 1.5 miles north of Kenai Lake, and it would cross the Resurrection Pass Trail, which is a U.S. Forest Service National Recreational Trail.

By contrast, the Federal Highway Administration selected the “G-South Alternative." The department selected this re-route by using a decision-making process, which, according to Alaska’s lawmakers, “appears to inexplicably undervalue the importance of fish and wildlife habitat, traditional activities, cultural sites and enhanced recreation.” The letter also says the G-South Alternative route would be much more costly to build.

The letter says the federal government seems to have decided that the greater public use and recreational opportunities in the area are a “negative impact that cannot be mitigated," as the highway would cross the recreational area.

The letter asks the three departments to work together, in order to resolve the conflicts, before the completion of the current environmental review process, which is scheduled for early next year. It also asks them to support the Juneau Creek Alternative, as the final re-route.