FAIRBANKS, Alaska — A proposed access road to connect the Ambler Mining District in northwest Alaska with the Dalton Highway and Fairbanks has drawn mixed reactions from community members.
During a public comment session in Fairbanks this week, some residents voiced concerns over the possible risk to the subsistence lifestyle of Native villages along the road, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported .
The 200-mile (320-kilometer) Ambler Road project has been in the works since 2014 and has elicited heavy criticism from residents in interior Alaska. They have said the road would increase the risk of industrial contamination and disrupt traditional hunting and fishing grounds.
The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority took over the project amid funding problems. The agency recently drew up a proposal for the road, and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is creating an environmental impact statement.
Ron Yarnell, a Fairbanks wilderness guide, said there’s a high risk of the project damaging the area.
“The proposed road will change the character of this area forever,” Yarnell said. “This road does not provide access for any of the local villages it passes. It does pass through country these folks use for subsistence.”
Paul Manuel, a local miner, voiced support for the project. He said the road would anchor mining operations to the area, opening up new opportunities that would benefit residents.
“This will mean lots of jobs, employment opportunity and mining opportunities that will be allowed by having access to this area,” Manuel said.
Representatives from the agencies involved in the project said they would take the comments into consideration over the next few months.
Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com