OPINION: State lands should support jobs, economic development and recreation for all Alaskans

A recent opinion piece by Lee McKnight about the West Susitna Access Road project could not have been more wrong. Mr. McKnight is welcome to his opinion, but misconstruing the facts and not disclosing his vested interest was misleading and deceived the public.

First, Mr. McKnight is against having a public road near his valuable personal Alexander Creek property, which he accesses via airboat.

Second, McKnight took comments I made in jest out of context and implied I don’t support the project.

Let me be clear: As a property owner in the West Susitna area, I fully support both the Department of Transportation’s public project and the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority project wherever these roads end up being located, near my property or not.

I support an access road because it serves Alaska’s interests, AIDEA’s mission of providing jobs, economic development and serves the public. These goals are particularly important when it comes to state lands. As made clear in our Alaska Constitution, Alaska state lands are owned in trust by all Alaskans and are to be put to the maximum use possible. They are not just for the few like Mr. McKnight.

Third, AIDEA is an enterprise business 100% owned by the state of Alaska. In fact, AIDEA receives revenue from its investments, like loans to Alaska small businesses and projects like the Red Dog mine, not only covering the costs of operating but paying nearly $500 million in dividends to the state treasury.

Fourth, just like the highly successful AIDEA Red Dog road and port, it is the resource development owners who will pay for the road, not Alaskans. Mr. McKnight also needs to understand the AIDEA project northwest of the Susitna River will be funded by investors.


Fifth, regarding the cost of the road, several Alaska professionals are working to design the road, reducing construction costs wherever possible while maintaining the strongest standards and keeping the lowest environmental impacts possible. The route is a work in progress lead by independent engineering experts.

Sixth, not a single dollar for AIDEA’s West Susitna road would take away from public road maintenance.

Finally, the road allows access to energy projects, mines, agriculture, forestry and, most important, recreation to all Alaskans, not just a select few like Mr. McKnight.

Ultimately, this project is supported by the Mat-Su Borough and thousands of Alaskans for the benefit of Alaskans, and that’s why I support it.

I urge Alaskans to let Alaska grow. Without access, Alaska’s future would be dim as we lose population, jobs and access to economic opportunities. I urge Mr. McKnight and all of us to avoid falling victim to the “not in my backyard” attitude. After all, as Alaskans we share and take care of each other.

Dana Pruhs is a lifelong Alaskan and board chair of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority.

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