Is the Katlian Bay Road Really a Good Idea?


View across Katlian Bay and Cedar Cove from Starrigavan Ridge. Photo © Kevin Donnelly

The extension of Halibut Point Road to Katlian Bay has been on the table for years. In the current fiscal climate we need to re-evaluate our large infrastructure projects. The proposal would see the construction of a nine mile unpaved single lane road, with multiple bridge crossings, built around the head of Starrigavan Bay connecting through to Katlian Bay. The project was originally developed in the ‘Road to Resources Program’ under former Governor Parnell. The area apparently contains potential rock and gravel resources on Shee Atika lands. Now, however, we are told the primary reason for the road is to provide ‘recreational and subsistence’ opportunities. Raven Radio covered the history and issues facing project a few weeks back, find their excellent story here.

This construction work is slated to begin during one of the largest budget deficits the State has ever faced; Alaska needs to find a spare $4 billion dollars. The planned road still has $12.5 million pencilled in against its name in this year’s State Transportation Improvement Program. With the current state deficit so alarmingly high, is it right to spend our limited state budget on a project with limited benefit to the community? Sitka already boasts some of the best subsistence and recreation opportunities in the world, let alone the State, without any need for an extension of the road system.

Most of us in Sitka do not own a boat, so it is easy to think it would be nice to have more convenient access to another beautiful valley. Yet with the State in such dire straits we need to prioritize and re-think what we want to (or not) invest our limited money in. We already have it pretty good in our little town and occasionally we need to remind ourselves of that fact. During this tightening of the state's purse strings a road that only really seeks to open up resource extraction for the benefit of the few is not a priority. The existing subsistence opportunities currently available to our town are essentially second to none. Plus it is worth remembering that, if built, the road will require constant maintenance due to the steep terrain it will cross, meaning the cost associated with it will certainly not stop once construction has. 

If you want to get involved and make your voice heard the Department of Transportation is hosting an Open House and Request for Comments from 4.30pm to 8.30pm Room E Centennial Hall this coming Wednesday March 18th. Find more details here.

Please find below a collection of maps and documents from the Dept of Transportation relating to the project including:

Map outlining the location of the planned road
Map illustrating the route alternatives
Fact sheet on the project
Table describing the potential impacts of the road

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