Citing coronavirus disaster, Alaska’s investment authority wants to bypass regulations to fund Ambler Road Project

Tom Boutin, executive director of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority. (Photo by Skip Gray/KTOO)

Citing Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s coronavirus emergency declaration, the state’s investment authority is looking to bypass regulations to put funding into the Ambler Road Project.

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) Board of Directors is meeting Friday to vote to allow the group to waive the standard requirements for taking loans from its revolving fund. That would allow them to put $35 million into the a fund that could later benefit the road, which they’re also scheduled to vote on.

Initially, the Board had a resolution to put the money from the revolving fund to the Arctic Infrastructure Development Fund, and then directly into the Ambler Road project. After a special Thursday board meeting, however, the resolution was amended to reflect that the board would have to take additional action to put the money into the Ambler Road.

The Ambler Road would stretch from Dalton Highway to the Ambler Mining District northeast of Kotzebue and cross Gates of the Arctic National Park. Critics say there are environmental concerns over routing through a national park. Others are concerned with impacts to federal subsistence rights.

AIDEA president Tom Boutin says the action by the board will allow AIDEA to issue loans more effectively to offset potential economic issues brought on by the coronavirus disaster. He says they want to ensure funding is secure for rural Alaska projects, like the Ambler Road.

The move has been criticized by environmental groups. The conservation nonprofit Alaska Wildlife Alliance called it inappropriate to fund the road project when there are other more pressing economic impacts facing Alaskans.

A map of AIDEA’s proposed routes for the Ambler Mining District Industrial Access Road. (Image courtesy the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority)
A map of AIDEA’s proposed routes for the Ambler Mining District Industrial Access Road. (Image courtesy the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority)

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