Petersburg residents scrutinize Kake Access Project
Petersburg residents voiced their concerns to federal and state officials regarding the Kake Access Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS.
The four-page document details the need for increased transportation options for Kake residents.
According to the EIS, the purpose of the project is threefold. One goal is to improve travel opportunities between Kake and a regional hub. Another is to provide greater mobility for its residents. And finally, according to the document, better access would “…reduce costs and improve convenience/frequency/reliability associated with travel and transport of goods and services into and out of Kake.”
The draft cites improved transportation may alleviate hardships due to high unemployment, lack of economic opportunities, infrequent ferry service, emigration and high costs of fuel, power and air travel.
According to U.S. Census data, 19.6 percent of Kake resident are unemployed and 18.9 percent are below the poverty line.
Michael Traffalis is a Project Manager with the Federal Highway Administration. He says the EIS statement is not a static document. There are no concrete plans for transportation infrastructure.
“We don’t have a range of alternatives at this point. In the federal process this is the document, this is the step where we are. And once this document is finalized then we will develop a range of alternatives and come back out for more public comment,” Traffalis said.
Transportation officials will then initiate resource and engineering studies.
Traffalis says he’s heard feedback from 15-20 Kake residents and the majority of them want better travel options.
During Wednesday’s July 24 forum, Petersburg resident Karin McCullough acknowledged that a road would increase access for Kake subsistence needs but she had concerns about sustainability issues that may arise from a road.
“It would also increase access to subsistence for all the residents of Mitkof,” McCullough said. “And would that actually decrease subsistence for Kake and would it create problems with wildlife populations?”
Understanding where Kake residents can receive specialized medical services was another factor residents urged officials to consider as they look at transportation options.
The cost of the road was also a hot topic. The state appropriated $40 million for the project and some residents were skeptical about that being enough. Traffalis says the goal of the forum was only to receive feedback about the current EIS draft.
“Whether $40 million is the right number, I reserve judgment,” Traffalis said.
The EIS project has $5 million in funding to conduct the study.
Additional comments can be submitted and details on the Kake Access project can be found at http://www.wfl.fhwa.dot.gov/projects/ak/kake/
Traffalis said since the comment period began in February, he hasn’t heard anything that will substantially change the Draft Purpose and Need Statement.
Comments are due by August 5, 2013.