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Message: Walker re-funds Ambler Road Project to EIS process


Walker re-funds Ambler Road Project to EIS process


FAIRBANKS — Alaska Gov. Bill Walker said he plans to re-fund the Ambler Road Project to the same point it was funded previously. The project lost its state funding in 2015 when Walker defunded several bond funded construction projects due to budgetary issues. 

The Ambler Road Project is a proposed 200-mile road that would connect the Ambler Mining District in Northwest Alaska with the Dalton Highway and Fairbanks. 

In a recent interview with the News-Miner, Walker confirmed that, if his FY19 budget proposal is passed, the project will be funded at the same level. 

“Our commitment to the Ambler Road was to get it up through the EIS process,” Walker said. “We are going to go ahead and advance that.”

The Bureau of Land Management is working on an environmental impact statement for the project, identifying and analyzing concerns associated with the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority’s proposal. The EIS must be complete before the project can move to the permitting phase. The public comment period just ended after months of gathering input.

Walker said the scoping process will not change and the goal of getting the environmental impact statement completed remains the same.

“We aren’t going to change anything on that,” Walker said. 

The governor said that some changes might cost slightly more than before, but not significantly more.

“We’re going to spend a little more money on that,” Walker said. “It turned out that the regulatory process has been changed from the Corps of Engineers over to BLM, and that’s going to cost a little more to do that. But we’re going to take it to the same point in time that we committed to before.”

The Ambler Road Project has been in the works since 2014, drawing criticism from Interior Alaska residents concerned about increased access to traditional hunting and fishing grounds and an added risk of industrial contamination.

After some problems with funding, the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority took over the project and recently completed a proposal for the road. BLM is working on an environmental impact statement, identifying and analyzing concerns about AIDEA’s proposal. 

Walker said he didn’t know who would take over the project after the EIS was completed. 

“Does it turn over to a private sector group that goes out and does it? Does it go through the mine? Do we do it? How do we do it?” Walker said. “It’s just the permitting process at this point.”

The BLM estimates that the EIS will not be completed and signed until 2019.

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