State investment arm seeks approval to put up to $500K towards controversial Ambler road

A map of the proposed Ambler Road project. The Bureau of Land Management has just released a summary of the public comments on that project. (Graphic Courtesy of HDR for the Bureau of Land Management.)

The state’s economic development agency is proposing to spend up to $500,000 on the controversial Ambler Mining District Industrial Access Project, commonly known as the Ambler Road. 

The project, which is still in exploratory stages, would build a 200-mile spur road west from the Dalton Highway to an area eyed by mining companies, crossing Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve along the way.

If approved by the board, the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) would transfer up to $500,000 from its Arctic Infrastructure Development Fund to put toward a variety of Ambler road-related costs, including aerial photography of the proposed route, public outreach and the hiring of a program manager. AIDEA officials say another $500,000 would be matched by Ambler Metals LLC, a company that’s been developing a prospect in the Ambler Mining District.  

Critics oppose building a road through a national park, as well as possible effects on caribou migration patterns that could impact subsistence harvests in the region. In its environmental impact statement on the proposed road, the Army Corps of Engineers said the road could affect air and water quality, wildlife migration and erosion. 

Despite an overwhelmingly negative string of public comments, the board waived its standard regulations and transferred $35 million into the Arctic Infrastructure Development Fund in March. During the same meeting, they designated the Ambler Road as an Arctic project eligible for those funds.

Requests for comment from AIDEA officials went unanswered as of this report. 

AIDEA’s Board of Directors is set to vote on the transfer at a meeting next week.