Well the news(on the threads here) is bad...not even passable for 4-wheelers!
The Chitina Dipnetters Association is working on getting something done yet this summer. We've a Guest Editorial which I'll post here, it is not the final draft as I've got to trim it down to 750(Fairbanks paper) and 575(Anchorage Dialy News) Looks to likely to be published in Fairbanks, not positive on Anchorage paper. Also submitted to Juneau and Mat-Su papers.
Dear Alaskans, hope your summer is starting well. We
are the Chitina Dipnetters Association and are writing
this to bring to your attention a serious problem. The
legislature recently provided funding for access for
Alaskans and their families to their resources at the
Chitina Personal Use Fishery (dipnetting) to the tune
of over $700,000 and the Governor has signed this
bill. However somewhere between the the legislatures'
funding, their intent and the practical need to
re-open access for Alaskans to their Resources is a
'washout' of will and effort yet to be bridged,
leaving thousands of Alaskans and their families
stranded on the wrong side of their resources.
In 2006 over 7,000 Alaskans received permits to
dipnet at Chitina, providing food, culture, and a
"Green" activity for themselves and their families.
Last fall record rainfall(the same rains which shut
down the Richardson Highway for weeks) caused new
problems on the "Copper River Highway". (DOT's
official designation but a far cry from the reality of
the "Chitina Road" which we will refer to it as from
here on) The Chitina Road has not seen any maintenance
under the past two Governors yet it was driveable to
able and careful Alaskans up to and through last
summer. The current state of the road is extremely
rough and undriveable beyond O'Brien Creek.(DOT has
done a good amount of work up to and including at
O'Brien Creek this year but has stalled out at going
further) The CDA seeks to have the road re-opened
throughout all of the Chitina Personal Use Fishery,
allowing for vehicle access now denied over much of
the most productive salmon dipnetting areas.
For those unfamiliar with Chitina, the Copper
River, and the art of dipnetting, beyond O'Brien Creek
the Copper River narrows into a canyon(Woods Canyon)
which increases the current and thus the migrating
salmon seek the easiest way up river by going nearest
the shore, among eddies and backwashes, and out of the
overwhelming current. Fortunately they are within
reach of dipnetter's long handled dipnets.
Alaskans seeking those salmon must be able to get
to the canyon and as the canyon forces the Copper
River into a narrower and stronger current it also
gives the old Copper River Railroad and current
"Copper River Highway" or Chitina Road large areas of
steep up sloop loaded with loose rock and silt. The
record rains of last fall brought down some of this
onto the road. We have the confidence in the personal
at DOT to do the work needed to provide safe seasonal
access. At this point and with no change directed from
the administration of Governor Palin, vehicle access
to all of the Canyon and the most productive
dipnetting areas will be denied to Alaskan's and their
We at CDA reject the argument that it is a task
beyond DOT's ability or funding to re-open this road
to seasonal access for Alaskans and their families.
The position given by some at DOT that it would take
millions of dollars to fix any number of areas is
based on a misleading or erroneously applied premise.
By using standards more applicable to Lower 48 urban
Interstates than to a seasonally used "Pioneer" road
here in Alaska, does give a pie in the sky cost
estimate. After 20 years of neglect in the early 90's
Governor Hickel ordered DOT to open the road from
O'Brien Creek to Haley Creek, the same area which is
now inaccessible. The 5 miles from O'Brien Creek to
the downstream border of the fishery on the Copper
River, Haley Creek, took only two days, a crew of 3, a
dozer, and a front end loader to open the entire
stretch of road that was in no worse shape than the
current state of disrepair.
A final point CDA wishes to refute is that of
liability, another given reason for the lack of effort
beyond O'Brien Creek. The state has extensive Right of
Way all throughout the state, and on many Pioneer
roads the state has from time to time done some work
or "dropped a blade" for rough road repair. Mining
roads are a good example of extensive state Right of
Way's and yet minimally maintained and useable public
access. Risk is not absent at any point on any road,
especially in Alaska, but DOT can not assign their
lack of will and effort at Chitina to any unique
situation not already found regularly throughout our
rugged State and accepted by Alaskans.
We at CDA can only wonder why the recent
generously funded intent of the Legislature and
Governor to re-open access for Alaskans and their
families at Chitina is being stalled out at O'Brien
Creek. CDA hopes it is only a momentary oversight by
the new Administration of Governor Sarah Palin to
provide direction and motivation to bridge this
'washout' of will and action by the State, leaving
Alaskans stranded from their resources.Well thats it, if you see a glaring problem or error let me know.