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http://www.thearcticsounder.com/article/1744blm_to_hold_public_meetings_on_ambler_road

BLM to hold public meetings on Ambler road

November 3rd | Shady Grove Oliver    

A proposed road project crossing the Northwest Arctic that has drawn controversy over the last few years is bringing public meetings to the communities it may affect.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will hold community scoping meetings in Northwest, North Slope and Interior villages and hub communities in fall and winter to gather input and feedback on the proposal for the Ambler road project.

As BLM is the lead federal agency on the proposed project, it is responsible for gathering community input as part of the process of developing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project.

"Scoping comments received from agencies and the public will be used to revise the purpose and need statement, identify issues, inform the analysis and alternatives and determine the extent of the information to be included in the EIS," the agency noted.

Should the project be approved, BLM would have to grant a right-of-way across lands it manages throughout the region.

In the notice on the federal register announcing the start of the scoping process earlier this year, BLM outlined a number of issues it plans to cover while creating the EIS, including "air quality, climate change effects, invasive species, mining, recreational activities, social and economic impacts, impacts to rule and traditional lifestyles, subsistence use and access, travel management, public access, wildlife and biological resources, special status species, fish and aquatic species, water, wetlands and riparian, wilderness characteristics, cultural resources, geology and soils, critical minerals, demand for gravel resources, reasonably foreseeable future activities."

If constructed as it is currently outlined, the "road to Ambler" would be a 211-mile gravel road across the southern foothills of the Brooks Range, providing an access corridor for industry vehicles between the copper-, zinc- and lead-rich Ambler Mining District and the haul road.

The origin point of the road would be at the Dalton Highway near Prospect Creek. According to BLM, the road, which is being proposed by the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA), will not be accessible to the public.

It would cross predominantly state lands, which make up a little more than 60 percent of the area. About a quarter of lands crossed would be federal and 15 percent are managed by Native corporations. The federal lands are managed by both BLM and the National Park Service, which is why there has to be a formal right-of-way request as part of the planning process.

The park service has said previously it plans to conduct its own independent analysis of the 26-mile portion of road set to cross Gates of the Arctic National Park.

The project will also need the green light from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard, BLM noted.

Some residents are in favor of the road, which they hope might some day grant them more access to state highways — an idea that is not currently part of the plan.

Others fear increased traffic through these undeveloped lands will bring with it the potential for disruption of herd migrations and subsistence activities along with an increased risk of spill contamination.

Initially, the public comment period for the proposal was supposed to close at the end of May. However, community members said they didn't have enough time to comment or attend meetings as they were busy with late winter and spring harvesting and hunting.

BLM extended the comment period through Jan. 31, 2018, as a result, and added this series of local meetings.

At this point, the road is just a proposal, meaning BLM is studying the potential for a road and not planning the road itself. The proposal could be denied or delayed through the process.

Comments from the public may be submitted by the end of this coming January by email to [email protected], by fax to 907-271-5479, or sent via snail mail to: Ambler Road Scoping Comments, 222 West 7th Avenue, Stop #13, Anchorage, Alaska, 99513.

Public meetings will be held as follows

• Allakaket, Allakaket Community Hall: Monday, Nov. 13, 3-5 p.m.

• Anaktuvuk Pass, Anaktuvuk Community Center: Tuesday, Nov. 14, 4-6 p.m.

• Alatna, Alatna Tribal Office Building: Wednesday, Nov. 15, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.

• Fairbanks, Wedgewood Resort, Borealis Ballroom: Thursday, Nov. 16, 6-8:30 p.m.

• Wiseman, Community Center: Friday, Nov. 17, 3-5 p.m.

• Anchorage, Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center: Monday, Nov. 20, 6-8 p.m.

• Kobuk, Kobuk School: Monday, Dec. 4, 4-6 p.m.

• Ambler, Ambler School: Tuesday, Dec. 5, 4-6 p.m.

• Kotzebue, Borough Assembly Chambers: Wednesday, Dec. 6, 4-6 p.m.

• Shungnak, Shungnak School: Thursday, Dec. 7, 4-6 p.m.

• Evansville/Bettles, Evansville Community Center: Tuesday, Dec. 12, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Shady Grove Oliver can be reached at [email protected]

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