West Susitna Access Project progresses
Participants envisage the construction of a road that crosses the Susitna River, runs north to the north side of the Skwentna River
for Petroleum News
The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and private partners are moving forward with the West Susitna Access Project, designed to develop road access to the western part of the huge Susitna Valley in southern Alaska. The concept is to build an industrial road for access to resources in the region. The project targets a wide range of different types of natural resource. The Susitna sedimentary basin that underlies the valley is prospective for natural gas.
Roads to resourcesDuring an Oct. 8 presentation to the Alaska Support Industry Alliance, officials from AIDEA and the borough reviewed the status of the project. Jesse Peterson, AIDEA senior manager for financial asset management, said that the project has evolved from the state’s 2014 road to resources program.
“There’s incredible amounts of resources out west of the Big Su (River) that could really benefit Alaskans from responsible development,” Peterson said.
Resources in the western part of the valley include copper, gold, silver, platinum and forestry. There is also potential for agriculture; for geothermal and hydroelectric energy; and for recreation, Peterson said, adding that there is some oil and gas potential in the region.
Brad Sworts from the Capital Projects Department of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough said that since the 1980s the borough has been working on a plan for access to the borough’s western region and has established some natural resource management areas in the region.
Driven by private sectorPeterson emphasized that the West Susitna Access Project will be “driven by the demands of the private sector for resource development.” AIDEA and the borough have partnered with Alaska Operations LLC, a mining company with interests in the Yentna Mining District, a prospective region straddling the Yentna and Kahiltna rivers, running north from the Skwentna River, on the northwestern side of the Susitna Valley.
Phase one of the project, completed in the fall of 2019, involved the reconnaissance of potential road routes, to view the terrain and assess route feasibility, Peterson said. A resulting memorandum with recommendations for further route exploration led to phase two this year, with the objectives of assessing potential costs and conducting field work that can provide the underpinnings for Clean Water Act permit applications in the future.
“We should have the phase two study completed by the end of this year,” Peterson said.
Likely routeAs a consequence of work carried out so far, the likely route of an access road for the western valley would cross the Susitna River near the confluence of the Yentna River before running northwest, below the northeast sides of Mount Susitna and Little Mount Susitna, to the west of the Iditarod Trail. To the north the route would cross the Skwentna River, before heading west along the north side of that river. The road would end at a point not far south of Rainy Pass in the Alaska Range. As envisaged, the road terminus would be located towards the southern end of the Yentna Mining District.
Phase three of the project, if approved by AIDEA and the borough, will involve some further fieldwork and refinement of the engineering for a road route, Peterson said. This phase, anticipated to be completed by the end of next year, would also involve the identification of cultural and historic resources and figuring out appropriate mitigation measures. Phase three would also entail the identification and exploration of possible alternative routes, Peterson said.