Cape Blossom Road project inching forward
A draft environmental assessment of the proposed $30 million Kotzebue to Cape Blossom Road project was released recently and is online and open for public comment until Friday. The assessment was prepared by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.
A meeting last week in Kotzebue brought out about 30 members of the public to express opinions on the assessment, the bulk of which were very encouraging, said the Department of Transportation's Al Beck.
It was a good turnout with lots of positive feedback, said Beck, who is new to the project.
"I could not have asked to be involved in a better meeting," Beck said. "A lot of people just want to know when it's going to get done. The public is excited about the project advancing."
Public comment on the assessment will be open until Nov. 8. And after that, the project will move into the design phase.
"There is very little impact environmentally," Beck said.
According to the assessment, the impacts to wetlands and fish and wildlife will be minimal due to the fact that proposed road would be constructed during the winter months.
The economic and subsistence impacts would be favorable, according to the assessment, as the project would create jobs and ultimately provide better access to fishing and gathering areas.
The 11-mile stretch would "be designed for commercial freight transport and recreational uses with an estimated volume of 100 vehicles per day or less," read the assessment.
"The proposed Cape Blossom Road would have positive impacts on the economic environment by providing jobs and increased revenue for the construction contractors and material suppliers.
"The road would benefit some subsistence users by providing all-season, passenger vehicle access, and would allow those unable to ride snow machines and all-terrain vehicles to hunt and gather on the lands adjacent to the corridor."
Approximately nine acres of wetlands would be impacted by the process of preparing for, and building the road. But, multiple plans would be "implemented to protect streams and wetlands, and to minimize the introduction of sediment and runoff." Also, best management practices would be implemented to minimize disturbance to wetlands and streams, including keeping fuel and other supplies a safe distance from waterways.
Due to the winter construction schedule, impacts to fish would be minimal and drainage structures and culverts would be designed and installed to "facilitate flow and fish passage.
"Fish passage would not be impacted."
The winter schedule would also avoid all impacts to migratory birds, raptors, and caribou migration, according to the study.
"Road construction would continue in spring on the same footprint covered by gravel in winter; there would be no additional ground disturbance and no impacts to migratory bird or raptor nesting areas."
Limited impact would be caused to moose-foraging areas also.
"Indirect impacts to wildlife would be caused by improved access to subsistence hunting areas, and there would be a potential for vehicle-animal collisions."
The proposed road is likely to have positive effects for subsistence users through improved access to parts of the Baldwin Peninsula, especially during the breakup and freeze up seasons when all-terrain vehicles, snow machines, and boats cannot be used, the assessment said. Though some berry and plant habitat will be destroyed by the road construction or affected by dust.
The Kotzebue to Cape Blossom Road project was first brought forward in the 1980s, according to the borough website. In 2005, federal money became available for the road project and it has been in the works since then. The goal is "to provide the community better access to their land that they use," Beck said.
"We want to do it right and make sure we have plenty of opportunities for the public to be informed and share ideas about what the road would do for them."
"The road would improve access and enhance safety between Kotzebue and the shoreline on the southwest side of the Baldwin Peninsula," according to the DOT website.
"The proposed Cape Blossom Road project includes: upgrading Air Force Road from Hillside Road to the Kotzebue Electric Association (KEA) Wind Farm, and constructing a two-lane gravel road from the wind farm to a beach access ramp above the high tide line near Cape Blossom. The proposed road would provide all-season access between Kotzebue and Cape Blossom."
The proposed road is one phase in a larger-scale project that includes a deep-water port at Cape Blossom.
A full copy of the draft environmental assessment can be found at: http://dot.alaska.gov/nreg/capeblossomroad/documents.shtml