The West Susitna Industrial Access Road
Mat-Su Borough Outreach
Borough mandate research began in January of 2022 and wrapped up in April of 2022. The Borough outreach consisted of a website, two public meetings, postcard mailers, emails, an online survey, and summary of findings.
The two public meetings were held on on Zoom. Representatives from DNR, the Borough, and AIDEA attended. AIDEA was unprepared for the questions that they received from the public during these meetings Recordings to the two meetings can be found on YouTube, linked below.
Mat Su Borough Public Outreach Meeting # 1: February 23, 2022
Mat Su Borough Public Outreach Meeting #2: March 23, 2022
Representatives from DNR, the Borough, and AIDEA attended.
AIDEA was unprepared for the questions that they received from the public during these meetings.
Questions that AIDEA could not answer include:
"What milepost on the West- Su Road parallels the Donlin Pipeline and their optic fiber right of way route?
Who would be responsible for it?
Who would own the Road?
Who would maintain it?
Would it be a toll road?
Why is this now a multi-use access road? Is it because the project proponent does not want to look at the road as “Connected Action” under NEPA?
Will the Borough have to create a new road service area for this route?
It looks like Knik Road Service Area will still be impacted—how will that be dealt with, given additional traffic and weight on the Knik RSA roads?
Who determined the cost of the road?
Has there been an independent cost benefit analysis not done by AIDEA?
During the EIS for the Port Mackenzie Railroad Extension Project EIS, it left out a significant lake/pond on the map. That was brought to the attention but never corrected. Will the EIS truthfully add all waterways, etc, in the route of the road?
Is there a tally of the number of comments for and opposing?
On your website, the public does not disclose who would be funding the design/construction of this project.t The public has the right to know.
Last meeting, the claim was made that AIDEA doesn’t want to use the closer existing roads to Beluga and utilize the barge system there and that the road was supposed to tie into the road system at Port Mackenzie in order to utilize the rail bed and port for export. Neither of these projects are completed. Is it in the budget to finish the rail bed by adding tracks and finishing the port to handle that kind of export?
Will the road be open in winter?
Does the cost to Alaskans include the EIS?
How can you even propose this project if you don’t have funding or know if it is public or private?
Would the Port of Mackenzie need to be improved for this to be feasible? If so, who would pay?
Clearly mining is the main driver of this project. The mine has no 43-101 report submitted and no feasibility study has been completed so why are we considering this mining road where no mine currently exists?
Who completed the field studies and who funded them?
How will the final decision be made whether this road is built or not? What is the exact process?
What is the hydrology process? Will this be left unfinished like Port Mackenzie and the railroad spur?
What are the protections for fish and wildlife?
The Rec Rivers plan is currently under evaluation and will likely be amended to allow for future development in and around these rivers?
Are you looking at any foreign investors or funders/organizations/companies for the project?
Please elaborate on possible timber harvest—most spruce are dead and rotting due to beetle kill and where is there a mill that can handle the board-feet estimated by the proposed project?
Did the preliminary economic study by AIDEA include negative impacts to guides, lodges, and other current economic activities?
What are you trying to sell us?
Maybe we should build the bridge form Anchorage to Port Mac that was proposed in 1963 first before these other proposals. Have you discussed this?
It is not a road for cars, it is an access corridor for gold mining trucks to drive out tailings.
Are there deals being talked about/worked out with certain organization/entities for this project?
What funders have you been talking to?
If you can’t answer who will use it, or, who will fund it, it sounds like a money making venture for you and all those involved in this preliminary work—is this true?
If the private road would cost 300-400 million, and the state has set aside 8.5 million, where is the rest of the money coming from to build this road?
How much is NOVA minerals being will to help fund?
What happens with the mines are expended in 20 years?
Does AIDEA consider regenerative long-term sustainable projects rather than just extractive?
Could you address how oil, gas, and mining exploration makes sense at this time in history?
How many seasons of field studies have been completed?
Why isn’t ADFG involved in these discussions?
There will need to have an ADL/right of way agreement, right?
Who maintains the road? Will there be parking areas?
Does it become a Mat-Su Borough managed road?
Will it be an ice road?
Who will be allowed Access?
How would all of the streams crossed be protected?
Wouldn’t transportation cost be a negative factor in the economics of timber sales?
By the time the road goes in, will the beetle kill be worth anything?
Can you please bring ADFG into the conversation?
What’s the current production royalty from mining to the state—especially for a mine that doesn’t exist?
Mining is a one time royalty—fish give royalty every year. What is the net income that could let them deduct a lot of expenses before the royalty is applied?
What are AIDEA’s plans for the summer?
How many of the 156 streams have been surveyed for fish?
Has the third party EIS RFP been released?
What is the projected revenue for the various projects that this road might give access to? How long to recover that revenue?
Who did the field studies?
Is this only gold and coal?
The 2014 engineering cost estimates for the same route was $453 million which is approximately $557million in 2020 dollars. The 2020 cost estimate came in at $357 million. Can you help us understand why the cost was reduced by $200 million?
Is this project being partially financed by federal money and if so does it come under the NEPA requirements?
Are we actually still talking about extracting coal in 2022? If the state is considering a $300+ million investment into a road, to the nearest $10 million, what is the incremental revenue to the state and borough from this investment to our state and Borough revenue stream?
Will there be a comparative economic study as part of this project?
How does this benefit the public?
How much of the road is in a flood plain?
Are you also calculating in environmental clean up? Will this be the responsibility of Alaskans or the mining company?"
Wrap-Up of Borough Outreach
The Mat-Su Borough wrapped up their public outreach for the West Susitna Industrial Access Corridor Project in April, and marked the end of this phase of the project by releasing a summary report.
The summary report from the Borough was released on April 18th, and marks the completion of the Borough spear-headed public outreach project. Most striking about this report is the lack of actual numbers demonstrating the overwhelming lack of public support for the project.
In all categories identified, the vast majority of folks that showed up to testify indicated a complete lack of support for the project, whether public or private.
Individuals commented on a variety of concerns in oppositon to the project citing concerns from environmental damage and wilderness loss, to negative effects of access like crime sprawl and financial problems, a lack of analysis of actual costs vs. benefits, problems with the public process, and questionable feasibility.
Manager Brown presented the outreach information at the Borough Assembly meeting in April.
You can watch it on YouTube HERE - The West Su discussion starts at 33:15 and lasts around 15 min.
Manager Brown said the key takeaways were that about 60% opposed, much less than the December meetings because their "nets were cast wider" and that the main concerns were mining vs. access. It is important to highlight that looking at their report (page 4), Public Meeting #2 (the final one) that it looks like well over 80% of the public still opposed the road, and the combined undecided and opposed response from meeting #1 is also close to that same 75-80%.
There was no opportunity for the public to ask questions or engage after this presentation.