Roads to Resources program not good example of responsible state spending

I met Sen. Micciche at the Homer Town Hall meeting on March 8.

My comment to him began by saying I was impressed with his Homer News story, Feb. 28, where he met with former Alaska Sen. Vic Fisher and “… ended up having a great history lesson for about 30 minutes.” I mentioned that I had seen the recent PBS special with Vic Fisher and was especially impressed when he described that the constitutional delegates were “more interested in being Alaskans than being Democrats or Republicans.” I said that I hoped our current legislators could share that same focus.

Gov. Parnell’s “Roads to Resources” program is a major concern of mine, I explained. How can he justify a road to Ambler with $4 million allotted just for road exploration and an additional $430 million for the initial cost estimate for the actual road construction?

How can Gov. Parnell consider a 548-mile, one-lane road to Nome estimated at more than $1.1 billion dollars? The governor does say that’s in the future, but for now he’ll settle for a $69-million, one-lane road going 39 miles to Tanana. This road is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2013 (Homer News, Nov. 15, 2012).

Where is the logic or fiscal responsibility in building the road from Juneau to Skagway that Gov. Parnell is advocating? Does he not know the geologic hazards such a road would entail? The citizens of Haines, Skagway and Sitka clearly expressed their opposition to such a foolish effort.

Instead, the governor unilaterally decided he would save money by scuttling the new, long planned 350-foot Alaska Class Ferry that was running $47 million over budget and replace it with two 255-foot to 305-foot shuttle ferries at a cost of $120 million. The new vessels will not be able to replace mainline vessels crossing the open waters of Dixon Entrance to Prince Rupert, British Columbia, (Alaska Journal of Commerce, Feb. 3, 2013).

The major missing element common in the entire Road to Resources Program is the money to pay for the road maintenance.

Does Gov. Parnell not know that the federal government has discontinued the funding for the Shakwak Highway project on Canadian portions of the Alaska Highway and the Haines Road? The United States has spent more than $400 million over the past three decades to maintain this surface route to Alaska. I would expect Alaska to pay something to maintain this road because most of the traffic on those portions is American.

How does Gov. Parnell justify Roads to Resources when the road from Homer to Anchorage is in such dangerous condition with potholes that can throw a vehicle into the oncoming lane of traffic? If the existing road cannot be safely maintained then logic would suggest there can be no funds expended for any Roads to Resources Program.

There is another aspect to the road situation in the Anchor Point-Homer area. Everyone should read the article, “America Strikes Oil, The Promise and Risk of Fracking,” in the March, 2013, edition of the National Geographic Magazine. The article’s graphic detail with pictures, map and personal accounts shows what our area can expect in the very near future if the West Eagle gas project comes to fruition. Our roads are simply inadequate for such an intense industrial development in the Cosmic Hamlet.

The map on pages 46 and 47 show there are more than 3,000 active wells in the Williston, North Dakota, area. This sort of density developed in less than seven years. Each of these wells requires multiple truck trips to service them. “…(T)he first year of every new well, from drilling to fracking to early production, would entail 2,000 truck trips. This doesn’t include hauling out huge amounts of oil and salt water during the remainder of the well’s life,” page 44 National Geographic, March 2013.

Two years ago Watford City had a population of 1,700; today it’s more than 6,000. I drove through this town last year and the traffic was worse than Anchorage’s rush hour. Please look at the picture of Williston, North Dakota’s traffic where 18-wheelers are nearly double the number of pickups and cars, see pages 52 and 53.

In the Homer News interview with Senator Micciche, (Feb. 28), he was quoted, “We hope people in the district recognize we’re trying to be leaders in the state for spending responsibly.” I don’t agree with Sen. Micciche’s definition of spending responsibly when it comes to Gov. Parnell’s Roads to Resources program.

If only we had a majority of Vic Fisher’s Alaskans in the Legislature instead of misguided partisans.

Homer resident Mike McCarthy is a retired registered geologist.

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