This just into the PA mailbox:
JUNEAU - On Tuesday, Alaska District Court Judge John Sedwick denied the State of Alaska’s motion to reconsider the court’s ruling that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Alaska Department of Transportation (ADOT) must consider improving ferry service as an alternative to extending the existing dead end highway north of Juneau.
In its motion to reconsider the ruling, the Palin Administration argued that it had adequately considered all necessary alternatives when it picked the $374 million road extension and additional ferry terminal as its preferred alternative for improving transportation in Lynn Canal. To this, Judge Sedwick replied simply, “Upon examination, the court finds no error in the order… Therefore, the motion…is DENIED.” [Capitalization in original]. FHWA did not join in the state’s motion.
In its strongly worded decision earlier this month, the court stated improved ferry service should be the “first obvious alternative” when considering how to improve transportation in Lynn Canal.
According to the February 13 decision, because the ADOT and Federal Highways Administration “did not include an alternative which improved ferry service using existing assets, the [Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS)] failed to foster informed decision-making and public participation. The FEIS’s omission of such an alternative is particularly troublesome in light of the agencies’ awareness that such an alternative was the “first obvious alternative” and had the fewest environmental impacts, and the fact that communities who stand to benefit the most from the Project explicitly requested the agencies to focus on improving ferry transportation within Lynn Canal."
“The court’s decision was pretty clear that we should look at ferries to improve Lynn Canal transportation, so this affirmation is not a surprise,” said Mark Gnadt, communications coordinator for the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.
Now, the Palin Administration must decide whether to appeal the decision to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, revise the Environmental Impact Statement to consider improved ferry alternatives or focus on improving Lynn Canal ferry service.
For more links to the decision and more information, please go to www.seacc.org/issues/transportation.