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Settlement on Klutina Lake Road Will Ensure Public Access


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March 21, 2017 JUNEAU—The State of Alaska and Ahtna, Inc. have been engaged in settlement discussions regarding the Klutina Lake Road near Copper Center. Ahtna sued the State in 2008 alleging trespass and the State counterclaimed to have the Court decide the existence and scope of the right-of-way.  Before starting a long and contentious trial, the State and Ahtna decided to see if they could settle the case. Recently, there has been a push to have the State cancel these settlement negotiations and go straight to trial. Because of the large amount of misinformation fueling this push, the State wants to correct the record now.

 

“Public access to Klutina Lake and the nearby state lands is a top priority of my administration,” said Governor Bill Walker. “Any settlement will include a 100-foot right-of-way and opportunities for fishing, camping and boating.”

 

As the State continues negotiations, there have always been core tenets that must be included in a settlement for the State to sign it:

 

-          The State will secure a 100-foot right-of-way from the New Richardson Highway to Klutina Lake.

-          The State will secure a road easement to access State lands from the end of the existing road; the parties will seek termination of a narrower 17(b) trail easement that follows a similar route.

-          Multiple areas along Klutina Lake Road will be designated where the public can fish and launch boats into the river.  Areas will be provided for camping and overnight parking and any fee Ahtna charges must be reasonable and similar to fees charged in State campgrounds. 

 

The exact scope and terms of use is what the State and Ahtna are trying to work out, as the State would want to do with any private property owner. Before any settlement is provided to the court, the State will seek to include an opportunity for public comment. Though not required, a public comment period would be beneficial, given the amount of misinformation and the impact to the public. If an agreement is not reached by the end of May and the parties are not making reasonable progress on the details of a final settlement, new trial dates will be scheduled with the superior court.

 

The State will also ensure that the settlement will in no way foreclose any future actions by the State to assert its rights over other rights-of-way under R.S. 2477 (the old mining law that allows states to claim the establishment of public rights-of-way over certain federal or former federal lands). Any potential settlement of this case will relate only to Ahtna.

 

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