SalmonState On Governor Dunleavy’s West Susitna Industrial Access Road Rebrand

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has had a busy week, including leading a State of Alaska lawsuit with hopes the Supreme Court will overturn Pebble Mine protection mandates for Bristol Bay. Today, SalmonState is questioning the Governor over a South Central road system project that would lead to more mining activity.

Here’s more from SalmonState:

Same playbook, new project: State attempts rebrand of West Susitna Industrial Access Road

July 27, 2023

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA—Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy today announced an attempt to rebrand the West Susitna Industrial Access Road, which would slice through wild public lands and salmon streams to create a mining district largely operated by foreign mining companies. While the Administration claims this “new” road is a different project, this announcement is a blatant attempt to rebrand the same money-losing handout, at the expense of Alaskans and of fish and game, that the Governor and his Administration have pursued for years. 

“This is the same industrial access road that the state has promoted since 2014,” said Mike Overcast, owner of Tordrillo Mountain Lodge, which is located in the West Susitna region.  “The Department of Transportation is purposely chopping the project up into smaller pieces in an attempt to avoid an appropriate environmental review and really look at the impacts to the salmon resources and the existing tourism-based economy in the West Susitna Region.”

“The West Susitna Road is a giant giveaway of state funds to subsidize the speculative mining ventures of foreign mining companies,” said Adam Cuthriell, owner of FishHound Expeditions, a fishing guide business in the region. “It doesn’t make sense for Alaskans to foot the bill and give these junior mining companies a free handout when it will jeopardize Alaskan-owned small businesses.”

Ultimately, the West Susitna Industrial Access Road would cross 182 waterways, impact at least 83 salmon streams, and cost the State of Alaska at least $450 million. The goal is to use Alaska’s money to connect the Yentna mining district with the existing road system — and, ultimately, to convert much of the West Susitna region, currently wild, into a series of open pit gold mines. If the mining district that this road leads to is eventually developed, industrial traffic would greatly impact any purportedly intended recreational use of the area.

“All the specifications make clear this publicly funded road would be built for industrial mining trucks, and this attempted rebrand to ‘public’ doesn’t pass the smell test,” said former Republican state senator Rick Halford. “We have huge infrastructure and other needs around the state that should be prioritized over speculative industrial roads to nowhere.”