Alaska Delegation and Gov. Walker Urge DOI, DOT, USDA to Resolve Cooper Landing Bypass Dispute

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, and U.S. Rep. Don Young, all R-Alaska, and Gov. Bill Walker, I-Alaska, yesterday sent a letter to Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao urging them to work together to resolve long-standing delays over the Cooper Landing Bypass in southcentral Alaska.

“We write to seek your coordinated assistance to resolve one of the longest-running regulatory disputes in Alaska,” the group wrote. “The dispute centers on the relocation of a 15-mile segment of Alaska Highway 1 (the Sterling Highway, from Milepost 45 to Milepost 60) along the Kenai River near Cooper Landing. We are now in the midst of the third Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a new road segment in this area, but like most Alaskans, believe the Juneau Creek Alternative is by far the best option to improve safety and protect the local environment.”

The letter urges the secretaries to select the Juneau Creek Alternative because it can meet the state’s long-standing goal of building a bypass away from the Kenai River and around the tourist areas at Cooper Landing. The Juneau Creek Alternative is the best option to reduce traffic, accidents, and the potential for fuel and chemical spills into salmon streams and wildlife habitat. It is widely supported by Alaskans on the Kenai Peninsula.

“Alaskans and many others, representing a diverse array of interests and concerns, agree that the best route for a bypass is the Juneau Creek Alternative,” the group noted. “It will run 1.5 miles north of Kenai Lake, so it will not require any construction delays or new bridges crossing the rivers and will protect salmon and other key ecosystem drivers from most sediment and road runoff.”

The letter calls on the Departments to work together on this critical issue, which has gone unresolved for more than four decades.

“It is critical to the safety and health of both Alaskan motorists and our world-class salmon fisheries that your Departments work together to resolve this complicated issue before the completion of the current environmental review process,” the group concluded. “Accordingly, we urge you to actively support the selection of the Juneau Creek Alternative as the final preferred alternative for the bypass and take all other steps needed to allow the bypass to be constructed.”  

A copy of the letter can be found here.

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