West of the Susitna: Roads, Rollbacks and – of all things – Coalbed Methane
Cook Inletkeeper has been keeping a watchful eye on the west side of the Susitna River for years. When the state of Alaska permitted a 315-mile right-of-way for a gas […]
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Cook Inletkeeper has been keeping a watchful eye on the west side of the Susitna River for years. When the state of Alaska permitted a 315-mile right-of-way for a gas pipeline to fuel the proposed Donlin Gold Mine, cutting a massive swath from Cook Inlet, over the Alaska Range to the mine site, we joined the sovereign nations of Orutsararmiut Native Council, Native Village of Eek, Native Village of Kwigillingok, and Chevak Native Village in calling out the state and eventually taking them to court for not adequately assessing the cumulative and reasonably foreseeable impacts of the project.

Now, with the proposed West Susitna Access Road, potential rollbacks to the Susitna Recreational Rivers Management Plan, and possible licenses for coalbed methane exploration moving forward, the impacts to the west side of the Susitna are accumulating fast.

First, there’s the West Susitna Access Road, a project by the Alaska Industrial Development Export Authority (AIDEA) – famous for its affinity for failed fiascos like the Mat-Su Borough ferry, Knik Arm Bridge and rail to Port Mackenzie. AIDEA’s West Susitna Access Road would use public funds for a potentially fully-private access road to the Yentna mining district. Besides a waste of our money, this road would change the fish and wildlife habitat profoundly, crossing the lower Susitna River and more than 150 salmon streams. 

To learn more about this proposed road and make comments before March 31st, please check out: https://west-susitna-access.matsugov.us/. The Matanuska-Susitna Borough is hosting public meetings on February 23 and March 23, 2022 @ 4 to 7 pm, with presentations at 4, 5, & 6 pm. Inletkeeper will be working on some talking points to help you submit comments!

Note: There may also be future opportunities to comment on this project when AIDEA seeks necessary federal and state permits. 

Second, the Susitna Basin Recreation Rivers Management Plan, adopted in 1991 after a rigorous public process period, is being reopened by Governor Dunleavy. The plan established six recreation rivers (Alexander Creek, Deshka River, Lake Creek, Little Susitna River, Talachulitna River and Talkeetna River) and the maintenance and enhancement of the land and water for recreation. Re-opening a management plan can be an important opportunity to improve land and water protections. Cook Inletkeeper will be working to ensure there are no decreases in the level of fish habitat mitigation or the required permits for development projects around these waterways resulting in deleterious effects on fish and wildlife habitat. 

You can check out the existing plan and the new Advisory Board details at: https://dnr.alaska.gov/mlw/susitna-advisory-board/

And we’ll let you know when the public comment period opens and will provide additional information and talking points.

And third, if that weren’t enough, the director of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (ADNR) decided that it is in the state’s best interest to issue gas exploration licenses for over 900,000 acres to the Alaska Natural Gas Corporation for conventional gas and coalbed methane development.  Cook Inletkeeper is reviewing this very questionable best interest finding and will be submitting comments by the deadline on March 14th. 

Let’s keep our eyes on these projects on the west side of the Susitna River and raise our voices in support of healthy salmon habitat, clean water and the best interests of Alaskans! 

Thank you for reading. We are able to do this work because of member support from concerned citizens like you. Please donate today to protect Cook Inlet for our future generations.