Sullivan amendment to defense bill would revive Ambler Road

The community of Ambler along the Kobuk river as seen from the air
Aerial view of Ambler and the Kobuk River in the summer. (National Park Service)

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan said he’s added an amendment to an annual defense bill that would override the Biden administration’s rejection of the Ambler Road.

In a press release, Sullivan said the amendment requires the Interior Department to “select a viable path for the project across public land.”

The proposed Ambler Road would run more than 200 miles. It would start west of the Dalton Highway and terminate in a mineral-rich area called the Ambler mining district, surrounding the village of Kobuk. The road corridor would cross federal land, including part of Gates of the Arctic National Park.

a map with a road project as a red line
A 200-mile road would connect the Ambler mining district to the Dalton Highway. (Alaska Division of Mining, Land and Water)

The project is controversial in the region. Several tribes say the road is a threat to caribou and the subsistence way of life.

The Biden administration in April rejected the project. NANA Regional Corp. withdrew in May, saying the state-owned entity that’s pursuing the road, the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, hadn’t addressed its concerns about resource protection and community benefits.

But Sullivan and Sen. Lisa Murkowski railed against the federal decision to reject the road. They say the project would allow mining of minerals critical to national security and the economy. Alaska Congresswoman Mary Peltola also criticized the rejection. She called the decision premature, since regional stakeholders were still debating it.

Sullivan’s amendment to revive the road is in a bill called the National Defense Authorization Act, which has cleared the Senate Armed Services Committee. The next stop is the Senate floor. 

There is little additional information available. The bill text hasn’t been made public yet and Sullivan did not grant an interview request.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her Read more about Lizhere.

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