Court of Appeals Will Not Hear State’s Juneau Access Petition

The full U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will not take up the State of Alaska’s latest petition in the Juneau Access case. In May, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit upheld a lower court’s order for a new Environmental Impact Statement for the road project. The state appealed to have all 11 members of the appeals court hear the case, but not one judge asked for a hearing. In light of this latest defeat, Alaska Department of Transportation Spokeswoman Brenda Hewitt says the state is looking at its options.

In 2006, the Highway Administration issued a record of decision approving the project. But in 2009, the federal agency declined to participate in the state’s appeal over the EIS decision. Juneau Access would extend the road north of the Capital City to a ferry terminal at the Katzehin River, where a boat would shuttle passengers the rest of the way to Skagway. A citizens group is already urging the state to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Citizens Pro Road Chairman Dick Knapp says the project has been studied enough and a new environmental impact statement would be a waste of time and money.

The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council challenged the original EIS, saying it didn’t adequately consider improvements to existing Lynn Canal ferry service. SEACC Communications Director Dan Lesh says if the state wants to move the project forward it should do another EIS.

The latest estimates put the project cost at $500 million. It’s been a regional transportation priority of the past three state administrations.

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Casey Kelly is a reporter at KTOO in Juneau.

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