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Sneaky Moves: West Susitna Industrial Access

Updated: 6 days ago


The end of July has more than made up for the rainy start to the season. 


We have enjoyed the warm, sunny weather in the watershed which reminded us why we are committed to engaging with the issues that affect the river.


A free-flowing, un-dammed Susitna supports fish and wildlife habitat that provides robust opportunities for harvesting from our backyard. 


A roadless West Susitna Drainage puts tourist dollars in our pockets, stimulates the local economy, and provides us with the experience of wilderness which keeps many of us in the state. 


Well-managed rivers keep motorized and non motorized recreation sustainable, and riparian setbacks maintain clean water and helps to protect our property and homes from flooding.


The unique qualities of this region will not remain without protection. Your engagement in local issues is integral to maintaining a wild Susitna drainage. Involvement of the public in many issues over the past few months has helped to keep our Susitna Watershed a great provider of food on our tables and in our freezers, a creator of cherished memories, and a truly special place to call home. 

(Photo Credit: Tracey Dolecki)

 

Rebrand of West Susitna Industrial Access

Same Project, New Tactics


Alaska is overwhelmed with bad roads. This week, in an effort to disguise the real project, the state moved a portion of the West Susitna Industrial Access road to the DOT and added it to the draft DOT STIP plan. 


The $82 million allocated for this portion of the industrial road could be used to fund existing road improvements or build other needed roads that have already been vetted and identified throughout Alaska. This sneaky shift in tactics to push through an unpopular project for industrial access isn’t fooling anyone.


The DOT STIP plan would require $82 million to build the first 15 miles of the Industrial road and bridge across the Big Su. The Big Su bridge is one of the largest expenses for this AIDEA project, and sneaking this funding into a DOT grant is a clever way to hide the full cost of this bad idea. Segmenting projects is a common tactic for AIDEA to progress bad projects that the public doesn’t want. This is an attempt to hide the full footprint and trajectory of this project.


To see the DOT STIP Project Summaries, Click Here.

To see the detailed DOT Extended Timeline, Click Here.

To learn more about West Susitna Industrial Access, Click Here.


This utilization of State DOT funds to build an entirely new road when we have trouble maintaining the current infrastructure is shortsighted. We already have miles of road that the state fails to maintain. We should be focusing our funds on improving the infrastructure we have, not subsidizing foreign mining corporations. 


DOT will be hosting a virtual open house covering the STIP funds on 

August 3rd, 2023 from 4-5:30 PM. To learn more, see the public notice

Comments on the proposed 2024-2027 STIP funding are accepted until Sunday, September 3rd, 2023. This is a vital opportunity to make your voice heard in keeping the West Susitna Drainage a wild place. 


Comments can be made here.


In the coming weeks, keep your eyes peeled for tips and tricks for testimony on this project. If you would like to get ahead of the curve, and would like help preparing your testimony, please email info@susitnarivercoaltion.org and we would be happy to assist.

 

Dunleavy fires two Susitna road opponents from land management advisory board

Nat Hertz, Northern Journal


Earlier this month, Governor Dunleavy suddenly removed two citizens from the Susitna Basin Recreation Rivers Advisory Board.


Israel Mahay and Mike Overcast, both active members of the Advisory Board, long-standing business owners, and respected voices in the community, had been donating their time in order to secure a positive future of the Rec Rivers Management Plan. Both men were taken off guard by their removal and with their replacement.


An article by Nat Hertz in the Northern Journal details their removal: "Dunleavy removed both men in identical letters dated June 21, after the board finished a series of meetings that ended with compiling a list of recommended changes to the area’s existing management plan.


"This letter is to inform you that you are being removed from the Recreation Rivers Advisory Board effective immediately,” Dunleavy’s letter said. “While I have appreciated your willingness to serve, I have determined that your continued representation on the board is not in the best interest of Alaska."


Read the Nat Hertz article here.


The Susitna River Coalition is disappointed by this short sighted decision and misguided future imposed on the Susitna Drainage. We are grateful to Israel and Mike for their work in the interest of our communities and the watershed. They selflessly spent hours reviewing the management plan, interfacing with the public, and attending meetings so that others could continue to enjoy the high-use waterways that the plan seeks to manage.


Currently, there are 4 open seats on the 13 person Advisory Board. Since Israel and Mike were removed, Deantha Skibinski, Executive Director of the Alaska Miners Association, has been appointed. 


To learn more about the Susitna Basin Recreation Rivers Management Plan, 

See the Management PlanOur Website, and the Winter Speaker Event on the topic. 

(Photo Credit: Nat Hertz)

 

Alaska is facing a massive mineral boom, but at what cost?

Lois Parshley, Grist


The Susitna River Coalition has been monitoring the West Susitna Industrial Access Project since it first came into conversation. 


Many questions about project safety, the actual benefits, economic or otherwise, to Alaskans, and the true cost of these so-called Road-to-Resources projects have been repeatedly called into question-- with few concrete answers.


A recent article in Grist, by Lois Parshley, highlights the change that is about to hit our highways, and brings up many salient points about what is at risk.


These project supporters often tout the economic benefits and jobs that these mining projects and their associated roads will bring. But what is the reality? 


“Alaska’s mines produced $4.5 billion worth of minerals last year. But mining contributes less than 1 percent of state revenue, which in 2021 came to $83 million. The base tax structure for that sector has remained largely unchanged since Alaska became a state in 1959. “There’s probably a lot of merit in revisiting many of the tax structures we have in the state of Alaska,” says state Representative Ashley Carrick, noting that Kinross and its supporters have worked to emphasize mining’s role in the region’s economy.”


Take a look at the article, and ask yourself what projects like the proposed West Susitna Industrial Access Road are actually delivering to your state and your communities.

(Photo Credit: Grist/Sean McDermott)

 

Riparian Setback Ordinance Updates

GOOD NEWS!! Your voices and actions made a difference!! 


After months of considering the issue, on July 18th, the Mat-Su Borough Assembly voted to postpone indefinitely the proposal to change the current shoreline setback requirement from 75 to 25 feet (OR 23-049).


You can watch the Assembly meeting by clicking here. The decision on OR 23-049 starts 3:45 min and public participation, which includes testimony on the ordinance, begins at 1:38:30.


On August 1st, a recommendation for the creation of a working group will be introduced to the Assembly. On August 15th, there will be a public hearing and decision on creating a working group to craft an updated shoreline setback ordinance over a six month period.

The draft ordinance proposes to form a seven member advisory board with representatives from the MSB Planning Commission, MSB Fish and Wildlife Commission, the Mat-Su Basin Salmon Habitat Partnership, the MSB Area Reality Community, and three “at large” members.


For those interested in being considered by the Mayor for appointment to the WSAB: Matanuska-Susitna Borough - Boards & Commissions Instructions & Application (matsugov.us)


This positive development is a direct result of the engagement of the public. These results show the importance of engaging with our local issues and the power we have to shape the future of our Borough.

 

Energy Landscape Updates: Want to serve on your Local Utility Co-Op Committee?


With so much in question about the future of energy in Alaska, there has been more public and rate-payer interest in how electric utility co-ops along the Railbelt (Homer to Fairbanks) are making important decisions. Electric co-ops are owned by all the members who pay electric bills, and the Board of Directors are voted in by these members to represent them. 


If you want to be involved with the Matanuska Electric Association (MEA), our electric co-op here in the Mat-Su, and help with issues such as the transparency of policies and decisions the staff and Board makes, you should consider applying to become a member of one of the MEA committees. 


Joining the MEA Bylaws Committee would mean you could be an essential part of reviewing and changing the way MEA is governed, which could make important impacts. Please apply before September to ensure your application gets in before the current committee meets to see if there are any openings available. The members are appointed by the MEA Board and serve a three-year term and meet a few times in the fall.


You can apply here.

 

Find the SRC Around Town

 

Sunshine Community Health Fair


On August 12th, from 11AM to 4PM, join us at the Sunshine Community Health Center's Community Celebration!


The Susitna River Coalition will be there with temporary tattoos, a few children's activities, and information on how we keep our free-flowing watershed healthy. 

Join us at this family friendly event to learn about all of the amazing things going on in our community.

 

Palmer Farmers Market



SRC will be at the Matanuska Community Farmers Market, a new farmers market in Palmer with local vendors such as Singing Nettle Farm andChugach Farm featuring veggies, flowers, eggs, salmon, mushrooms and more. 


Come chat with us about what's happening with the Susitna-Watana Dam, the West Su Access Road and 2024 MEA Elections.


When: Wednesday, August 16th from 4-7pm

Where: 713 S Denali St (The big parking lot at United Protestant Church in Palmer)

 

Talkeetna Trail Days

On Saturday, August 26th, join the Denali National Park and Preserve and the Susitna River Coalition in our annual clean up event in Talkeetna, Alaska. Help clean up along the Talkeetna Riverfront and along the Chase Trail. 

 

Save the Date!! Wild Su Feast 2023 will be held on October 15th, 2023 at the Denali Brewing Company Tasting Room at Mile 2. We can't wait to celebrate your successful hunts, fishing trips, and gardens at this community potluck. 


Start planning your dishes, save the date, and stay tuned for more information.

Interested in sponsoring this years event or donating a prize to the annual raffle? Contact us!

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