Action Line: SEACC attorney discusses Juneau Access EIS, draft Tongass plan

    SEACC Grassroots Attorney Buck Lindekugal spoke about what the governor is expected to decide in regards to Juneau Access, along with the status of the drafted plan to move away from old growth logging in the Tongass National Forest.

    Governor Walker is expected to announce a decision soon on the revised Environmental Impact Statement for Juneau Access.

    The preferred alternative now is a road up the east side of Lynn Canal to the Katzehin River and then ferry shuttles from there to Haines and Skagway.

    A court ruling directed the state to revise the EIS to more fully consider a marine highway option.

    The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council was part of that legal action.

    We asked its Grassroots Attorney, Buck Lindekugal, on Action Line Thursday if the Walker Administration chooses to continue with the road and ferry shuttle option.

    "I know it would make the planners at DOT extremely happy, but I think the road to the Katzehin is so implausible, unsafe, and expensive that the governor would never let them get away with it," stated Lindekugal. "I'm counting on his good judgement; we've seen his willingness to step up and exercise that judgement several times. We're confident he's going to do the right thing."

    Road advocates point out that there's already funding set aside for the project, but Lindekugal has other ideas.

    "That money should go into the ferry system. For every dollar we put in the ferry system, it puts out over two dollars. I don't know of any other state or government program that makes money. The return on that for all Southeast Alaskans has just been incredible. We hope they take advantage of that and keep our transportation lifeblood together."

    Lindekugal also discussed the draft plan issued by the U. S. Forest Service for the Tongass National Forest.

    "At this stage, folks can object to that proposed decision, but the only people who are eligible to object are people who commented on the draft plan. They can only object about issues that they raised in their comments to the Forest back in 2015. They've made it more difficult to influence the outcome, but we're going to continue to pressure them to see if we can get improvements."

    Lindekugal says they want the cutting of old growth timber called for in the final environmental impact statement and draft record of decision taken out of the equation.

    "We don't think they need to keep logging old growth that long. They're actually going to be increasing the amount of old growth logged over the next ten years from what they've logged the last ten years, and that just doesn't make sense; it doesn't make sense ecologically or economically. The two biggest sectors that depend on old growth in the Southeast are the commercial fishing and tourism sectors. They depend on old growth, and they depend on it standing. All of us depend on standing old growth because it sequesters carbon. The Tongass stores more carbon than any other national forest in the entire country. We've heard it referred to by some scientists as "America's carbon life raft." This old growth forest is more valuable standing than it is cut down."

    Public comment on the draft plan is due by the end of August.


    Following his appearance on the show, Buck sent an email correction that stated, "According to McDowell Group's January 2016 report, the State's investment of $117 million into the ferry system was more than than doubled in terms of economic benefits to Alaska, totaling $273 million."

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