Alaska District Court Judge John Sedwick ruled February 13 that the Federal Highway Administration and the Alaska Department of Transportation failed to adequately consider ferry alternatives in approving the Juneau Road and ferry mega-project. The road was proposed to go up the east side of Lynn Canal, through the Tongass National Forest. The decision stops all construction on the project until the Alaska Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration can do a new environmental impact statement that includes ferry alternatives in considering the best option for travel in Lynn Canal.
“This decision validates what the communities of Southeast Alaska have been asking the state and the federal highway officials to do for years and that is fix the ferries and keep Berners Bay wild,” said Earthjustice attorney Kate Glover.
“We’re pleased that the court agreed with our concerns. Ferries are a safe and flexible means of connecting people throughout Southeast Alaska and they are part of the fabric of our regional community,” said Lindsey Ketchel, Executive Director of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC). “Any discussion of improving transportation in Lynn Canal should consider the simple solutions first and SEACC has long considered ferries as a common sense approach.”
Plaintiffs in the case, SEACC, Skagway Marine Access Commission, Lynn Canal Conservation, Alaska Public Interest Research Group, Juneau Group of the Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, successfully argued that Federal Highway Administration did not adequately evaluate all viable alternatives, including improved ferry service, when considering the 51 mile extension of the dead end road that heads north from Juneau to the Katzehin Delta.
“From the beginning, people in Skagway and throughout Southeast Alaska have said ferries are the answer and that the environmental impact statement was biased by only focusing on road alternatives. We’re glad the court recognized this,” said Jan Wrentmore, a Skagway businesswoman and chair of the Skagway Marine Access Commission.