As of this writing, neither the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS) nor Governor Bill Walker’s decision on the proposed road between Juneau and the Katzehin River south of Skagway, Alaska has been announced. The Draft SEIS was completed in September 2014 and public comment on it ended that November. GSACC submitted a 19-page letter to the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT&PF) critiquing the Draft SEIS. Our opposition to an upland road has also complemented efforts of other regional conservation groups.
It has been reported to us that backers of an upland road have been leaning on the Governor to decide in their favor. Conservationists need to make known to the Governor their arguments in favor of continued and improved Alaska Marine Highway System ferry transportation between Juneau, Haines, and Skagway instead of building a road which would cross multiple avalanche paths and be enormously expensive to build and maintain.
This January, DOT&PF released a report, The Economic Impacts of the Alaska Marine Highway System, prepared by the McDowell Group. It found that the state run ferry system generates a return of more than $2 to the state for every $1 invested. “The ferry system provides a critical link for many communities,” Governor Bill Walker said. “But I was surprised to learn just how widespread the economic impacts are, accounting for 1,700 Alaska jobs and more than $100 million in wages and benefits.” The report found Anchorage residents were the number two source of bookings, after Juneau. Some other key findings include:
- Two-thirds of AMHS users are Alaska residents.
- The state’s general fund investment of $117 million in 2014 resulted in a total return on investment of $273 million.
- Over half of all summer ferry passengers visit Anchorage.
- AMHS nonresident summer passengers spend an average of $1,300 per person while in Alaska.
- Non-resident summer passengers who enter or exit Alaska via AMHS spend an average of $1,700, compared to $941 average among all Alaska summer visitors.
- AMHS carried 319,000 passengers, 108,000 vehicles, and almost 4,000 container vans in 2014.