For the second time this month, Petersburg’s borough assembly Monday fell short of the votes needed for an official stance on the state’s remote road project near Kake. The assembly has now voted down a letter and a resolution taking different stances on what could be a nearly 40 million dollar road construction project starting this year.
Earlier this month the votes were not there to pass a resolution against the project. At their second meeting this month the assembly took up a letter taking a different tack. That letter asks the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Transportation to extend the road closure to Petersburg.
Mayor Mark Jensen has been a supporter of the project. He attended the meeting by phone and wanted the assembly to support additional road work.
“Terminating the road at 12 mile creek is not a very good plan,” Jensen said. “I would hope that there would be more money appropriated by the state, or if the state urges DOT to use all of the money for construction instead of spending some of it for other means, other uses. The road could be able to come a lot closer to Petersburg than 12 mile. If it ends up at five mile for now that would be better than 12 mile but I think the ideal place would be to cross the narrows where the waters, even if it’s windy, are passable.”
The current plans are to end the road 12 miles north of Petersburg at a new boat ramp. Jensen has said he thinks the road will be an economic benefit to the two communities and could help getting goods or services to Kake.
The DOT’s stated purpose for doing the work is to improve access to subsistence fishing and hunting on the island. State and federal highway planners have looked at other versions of road and ferry connections between Kake and Petersburg but have abandoned those for being too costly.
Petersburg’s assembly has been pretty well split on the latest plans for the road. Opponents wonder why the money can’t be used by the ferry system or some other state government need. Assembly member Jeigh Stanton Gregor didn’t attend the meeting but submitted a written comment backing the city of Kupreanof and its opposition to the project. And assembly member Taylor Norheim repeated his stance that the road building is not something the assembly needed to weigh in on.
“So yeah it is in our borough but it’s not our road,” Norheim said. “Bringing it closer to Kupreanof, they don’t want that’s clear. I won’t be voting for this. We’ll just let the state eat this one.”
The vote was 3-3 on sending this letter to the DOT with Jensen, Bob Lynn and Brandi Marohl voting for it. Without four votes it fails.
The assembly did agree on sending a half dozen other letters. Those include one to the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Agriculture seeking an independent audit of timber sales on Kupreanof and Prince of Wales islands. Other letters seek state funding for other transportation projects, support the state’s ocean ranger cruise ship monitoring program and seek continuation of state payments to municipalities.