Packed testimony at Ambler Road EIS hearing
About 150 people signed-in to the public hearing for the Ambler Road Draft EIS last night. Commenters noted the report found impacts to subsistence hunting and fishing, and nearly all opposed construction of the mining access road.
About 150 people signed-in to the public hearing for the Ambler Road Draft EIS last night. Commenters noted the report found impacts to subsistence hunting and fishing, and as KUAC’s
People packed a room at Raven Landing for the Fairbanks hearing, the first of a series to gather public comment on the Bureau of Land Management’s draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Ambler Road. BLM Project Manager Stacie McIntosh described the proposed road.
“The project is basically to construct, operate, maintain, and eventually remove an all season, industrial-access-only road from the Dalton Highway to the Ambler Mining District,” McIntosh said, explaining the history of the project and the hearing process.
Tanana Chiefs Conference President Brian Ridley asked the BLM to deny a right-of-way for the road.
“The Ambler Road has been constantly promoted for critical minerals, but the latest mineral resource reports for the four deposits in the Ambler Mining District dispel this claim. First, it's important to recognize that there are no mines in the Ambler Mining District. The promise of mineral independence is hollow,” Ridley said.
Rachel Gaedeke of Iniakuk Lake in the Brooks Range, read a statement from her brother, John about the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, or AIDEA.
“AIDEA appears committed to forward action at all costs. This is a perverse development mentality that goes against all that the EIS is supposed to guarantee. This right of way application is riddled with words like as appropriate, when possible, and if feasible. Nowhere in this application is there any hint of respect or dedication to stakeholders in the region. Look at the wording in this supplemental EIS. It speaks only of impacts, pollution, extermination, contamination, and decline,” John Gaedeke wrote.
The BLM hearings are required by the National Environmental Policy Act, NEPA, and the Alaska National Interest Conservation Act, or ANILCA to collect comments on the document, such as pointing out inaccuracies or deficiencies.
But most commenters like Emily Hikes of Fairbanks agreed with the report and wanted instead to talk about the road.
"It's important that we preserve the healthy existence of plentiful, freely roaming caribou, unburdened fish and plant populations, and the traditions of people who have stewarded this land for thousands of years before it was ever decided that the geological formations underneath of them are worth more than they are,” Hikes said.
Many commenters traveled to the hearing from villages near the proposed road route. Frank Thompson, First Chief of Evansville Tribal Council, said it is the effects of the mines at the end of the road that he’s concerned about.
“Because no specific mining proposal is under consideration, no specific mitigation is proposed for the indirect mining scenario. While the impacts of the proposed road are substantial and unacceptable, the indirect effects of at least four large scale mines, and perhaps up to a dozen other mines, will be disastrous and unsustainable for the region,” Thompson said.
One person at the hearing spoke in favor of the project.
“My name is Craig Jones and I'm from Ambler.”
Jones, who was raised in Ambler, is the deputy project manager for the Ambler Access Project, headquartered in Fairbanks.
“At one point in my life I was a very vocal opponent to this project. I just want a seat at the table to make sure that we try and do what we can to mitigate all these concerns, to address them. I'm in for responsible development of access,” Jones said.
A link to the draft SEIS, and instructions on how to submit written comments are available on the BLM website. The comment period ends on December 22. BLM will host public hearings at the Community Center in Evansville next Tuesday evening, then Kiana and Kotzebue later next week, and other impacted villages later this month.