City of Manokotak still working to build road to Dillingham
by Dave Bendinger
Bristol Bay Times-Dutch Harbor Fisherman
The City of Manokotak is still advancing its road-to-Dillingham proposal, even as the cost to build the road may be upwards of $100 million.
Manokotak likes a recent feasibility study's "Alternative 1", which runs from the Airport Access Road in Manokotak to the end of Dillingham's Kanakanak Road. At 16.8 miles, it is the shortest of five proposed routes, but also is estimated to be the most expensive.
"It's closer to Dillingham using the southern route. Closer to the hospital, and it is in line with the tribal transportation plan the Manokotak Village Council has," said Mayor Melvin Andrew. "On top of that, we'd like to give Clark's Point an opportunity to access their land for the economic opportunities they have address in the past year."
This southern or "coastal" route is located primarily on lands on the village corporations for Manokotak and Clark's Point. Andrew said he is eager to discuss with his neighbors across the Nushagak Bay their interest in seeing that road developed, which would include a 1,600-foot bridge across the Snake River. Clark's Point has expressed interest in possibly seeing a port developed near the mouth of the Snake River, and facilities for launching vessels at the bridge, if developed.
It also passes mainly over wetlands, meaning permitting could be complicated and construction very expensive. The Bristol Engineering study suggested the road would cost $104 million to build and a few million more to upkeep over 30 years. The bridge, which would be built for the two southern routes, is estimated to cost $46 million, about double the price tag for the Wood River Bridge in Aleknagik.
Alternative 4 was favored by survey respondents in Dillingham. At 22.5 miles, it is the longest route, but also estimated to be the cheapest to build. It would run north from Manokotak and cross the Weary and Snake Rivers with a pair of 250-foot bridges, then end at Warehouse Mountain Road. Dillingham respondents recognized this route would open up access to excellent hunting and fishing country and improve access to some cabins and private property. It crosses Manokotak Natives Limited, state, and BLM lands.
The impetus behind building a road, said Melvin, is to give Manokotak access to the jobs and supplies in Dillingham. Manokotak residents came out more in favor of than opposed to the road, according to the study, but not without some apprehension. There was concern raised primarily about importation of drugs and alcohol.
"We believe there is more good to this project than there is bad," said Andrew. "You know there's always impact on every economic opportunity, like a road project, but there's certainly some advantages here that we can take."
That is dependent, of course, on if the road could ever find funding. The city will keep pressing, and Andrew hopes to have a proposal put together this year. He believes eventually this road will get built.
"I wish it could happen tomorrow," he said. "As soon as we decide on the couple of routes that are possible, we'll go into plan and design, which could take up to five years. So we're looking at construction possibly within the next 10 years."