EPA Won’t Block Bridge Crossing Tanana River

The Environmental Protection Agency will not hold up an Army Corps of Engineers permit for an Alaska Railroad bridge across the Tanana River.  The EPA had objected to the proposed bridge’s location at Salcha due to fish passage and other concerns, but according to a statement from Northwest Regional Administrator Dennis McClerran the agency will not seek a national level review of the Army Corps’ permit.  The statement says the agency will continue to work with the Corps to address any potential environmental impacts of the project.  Maryanne Holsman with the EPA regional administrator’s office says the decision follows a review of a complete package of information not previously available.

The $180+ million bridge will be the longest in Alaska, but initially only provide the military access to training grounds on the other side of the Tanana River.  Alaska Railroad president Christopher Aadneson says the bridge is the first phase of a long term plan to extend the Alaska Railroad south.

Aadneson says the, railroad’s extension could leverage development of mineral resources along a planned route that would eventually reach all the way to Canada. Over $100 million of the bridge funding is coming from military grants that were endangered if construction did not start this summer.  The rest of the money is coming from the state.

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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