On Monday, Alaska Governor Sean Parnell signed into law three budget bills for Fiscal Year 2013 appropriating an estimated $870 million for transportation. Among the budget items is the allocation of $40 million for the controversial Kake-Petersburg Road.
Many residents from the cities of Petersburg and Kupreanof sounded off during the last City Council meeting. They asked for city action toward a line-item veto of the project. The council voted in favor of drafting a resolution, but there wasn’t enough time to send it out.
Kupreanof Mayor Dana Thynes, and Kupreanof residents Joe Sebastian and Forest Sebastian, attended the Transportation Advisory Committee meeting on Tuesday, after the budget had been signed, to get some answers.
Alaska Department of Transportation spokesman Andy Hughes joined the meeting via teleconference.
“We are proceeding ahead with an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) for the development of an access road between Kake and Petersburg … we would also focus on the legislative intent of the money, which is to construct a very low-volume road to build a single lane gravel road with turn-outs,” Hughes said.
According to the plans, $40 million would fund 22 miles of new road and refurbish 23 miles of existing road along the much-contested northern route. Additional funds may be required for ferry terminals to transport vehicles across the Narrows. Two small ferry terminals are proposed at a cost of $8 million for the project.
The EIS will look at a proposed southern route for the road, but would discount any route through the wilderness area, Hughes said.
“All potential corridors will be addressed,” Hughes said. “The northern route has been on the Alaska State Highway System for years. We have nominated it for Forest Highway Funding as well.”
Thynes asked if the focus of the road project is to bring power to Kake, why is the money being spent on the road project.
According to Hughes, the power line project is being handled by the Alaska Energy Authority out of Anchorage. It will be initiating an EIS soon.
“I'm assuming you are aware of the resistance to the idea of this northern route going through the City of Kupreanof and Petersburg Creek area,” said Joe Sebastian.
Hughes acknowledged that he was and reiterated that the EIS would look at alternative routes.
When signing the budget, Governor Parnell used his authority to veto $66.6 million in funding from the state budget.
The operating and capital budget for the state is $12.1 billion, including $7.9 billion in state general funds.
The state budget includes full funding for K-12 education, Medicaid, retirement system unfunded liability, debt service, and employee contracts. The capital budget is $2.9 billion, including $1.9 billion in state general funds.
Locally, the budget also includes $10 million for the North Harbor, commercial drive down dock and an upgrade for the crane dock, $350,000 for the design of a new police station, $275,000 for the replacement of the Petersburg Medical Center roof, $50,000 for repairs and improvements to the shooting range, $250,000 for renovations at the Sons of Norway Hall, and $65,000 for improvements at Sandy Beach Park.