Public Input Wanted for Road to Umiat

The Army Corps of Engineers is taking public input on the state’s proposed road to Umiat. A series of meetings beginning tonight in Fairbanks seek comment as part of the scoping progress for an environmental impact statement.  The $400+ million road from the Dalton Highway, 100 miles to Umiat, is to access oil and gas in the foothills of the Brooks Range and the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska. Department of Natural Resources Petroleum Geologist Paul Decker says the road will leverage development in a region where only a few exploratory wells have been drilled in the last 25 years.

A number of leases have been sold in the Foothills area, but most recently a consortium lead by Anadarko Petroleum relinquished dozens of them back to the state.  The road faces opposition from the Brooks Range village of Anaktuvuk Pass. Village Mayor Esther Hugo says locals fear it would hurt their subsistence lifestyle and dependence on caribou.

Hugo says the road and potential new oil and gas development could provide a lot of jobs, but that the village does not feel the trade off is worth it.  Public meetings for the environmental impact statement for the Umiat Road are scheduled for Fairbanks, Anchorage, Nuiqsut, Barrow and Anaktuvuk Pass through June 16.  There’s $8 million in the state capital budget to fund environmental impact statement work for the proposed road.

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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