By Margaret Friedenauer
The state department of transportation this week filed for a permit to construct a road north of Juneau to the Katzehin River Delta.
The Army Corps of Engineers must issue a permit to the state before any work or construction could begin on the Juneau Access Project.
The permit application does not mean construction is going to begin soon on the road or ferry terminal. DOT spokesman Jeremy Woodrow says the permit will take several months to process and the department is applying for the permit now so that when the Federal Highway Administration makes a final decision on the project, it’s not delayed by the permit process. That decision from the feds is expect next fall.
The Army Corps of Engineers issued a public notice on the permit application the same day Gov. Bill Walker took office. And that could have a bigger effect on the road project than anything at this point. Walker said during his campaign for governor that capital mega-projects concern him because of the high costs. Highway construction in the Juneau Access Project is estimated to cost $523 million, and new ferry terminal and vessel construction another $51 million. Most of that money would come from the Federal highways Administration, but it’s also money that could be used for other transportation projects, if the state chooses.
Walker spokesperson Grace Jung said Wednesday the governor is assessing all projects, including the Juneau Access Project but that it’s too soon to say what his decision will be on how to proceed.
In the meantime, the Army Corps of Engineers is accepting public comment on the permit application until the end of the month.
In the application, the state details the project would begin about 40 miles north of Juneau near Echo Cove and continue 50 miles along the east side of Lynn Canal. The project would discharge more than 500,000 tons of rock, sand and gravel fill material into waters to create a two-lane highway. It would impact 60 acres of forested wetland and 25 acres of marine waters. It would install three bridges and 226 culverts. Additional fill dredging work and pile driving would be needed to construct the Katzehin ferry terminal and dock and a new berth at the Skagway ferry terminal to accommodate the new ferries.
The application says the state is awaiting permits from several other agencies including the Us. Forest Service, National Marine Fisheries, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and the department of Natural resources.
The application also details proposed mitigations. And in a section about essential fish habitat, the application states the construction activity may adversely affect all five species of salmon but that the state will consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service.
We’ve linked to a copy of the public notice about the permit application with this story on our website.