Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

 
 

Highway upgrade can improve habitat

 


Everyone in Haines depends on the Department of Transportation to build and maintain safe roads and generally they keep them in great shape. While the Haines Highway is not the Blue Ridge Parkway, fish and wildlife habitat values through the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve are some of the highest anywhere. It has been well documented that straight riprap provides poor fish habitat for rearing fish. It also speeds river flow and increases erosion. Washington Department of Transportation has not used straight riprap for over 10 years and in numerous cases is removing it. This is not a new concept. While fish runs have ups and downs, king salmon are of particular concern. Their entire juvenile life is spent in the main river, not clear side streams. By incorporating logjams into the road design, DOT can protect the road and address some habitat loss related to the road. Using poor practices for years does not make them right; we deserve the best techniques available. The ability exists to upgrade the road and improve fish habitat at the same time. There is much more to this issue than can be addressed in a simple letter. This quote from the National Marine Fisheries Service review of the project sums it up: “If constructed as currently proposed, adverse effects to essential fish habitat from the Haines Highway project will be substantial and permanent.” We need a good road and better fish habitat; there is no reason to sacrifice one for the other. Let DOT know.

Ben Kirkpatrick