Mar 21, 2012


The Alaska Senate Finance Committee is holding a Capital Budget hearing tonight, and one of the issues on tap is a proposed road to Umiat, as part of Governor Parnell's Roads to Resources program. The proposed road north of the Brooks Range is a contentious issue.

Fundamentally, it is a hundred mile road from Glabraith Lake, on the haul road, to Umiat, where they estimate large deposits or oil exist. The cost is roughly $400m, with an annual $3m to maintain. As an all Alaska project, the road comes at no risk to the oil companies, but would pave (ok, gravel) over a piece of Alaska that currently is only available via a winter ice road and by plane. This road, as well as the proposed roads to Ambler and Tanana (which oddly I have heard very little about) would be the first roads built of note North of the Yukon River since the haul road was built in 1974.

One of the things I've always found so interesting about the haul road, of which I've spent so much time is that nothing is easy. The road is difficult, the politics are difficult, our dependence on the drilling a the end of the road is difficult, and drawing my own moral lines is difficult. My love for that space, respect for the people who find themselves there, ultimate opposition to the road to Umiat, my own hypocrisies, and my relationship with Alaska is difficult. I have this belief that in the next fifty years we (Alaskans and those who pay our way) will decide our state's legacy - wilderness or resources.

With each new road that is built, we become closer to being the same as everywhere. A patchwork of gravel and blacktop. Lines - some going somewhere, some going nowhere, but all accommodating our collective stubbornness and need for progress.

For now, my work on the road is near finished, but I'm forever connected to its past, present, and future. I'm interested in what the road will look like in fifty years - what the north of Alaska will look like in fifty years.

In my artist statement I have struggled with the following lines - "north or south. advancing or retreating. at the end, always oil". I hope that in fifty years I won't say - "north, south, east, and west - roads into every corner of the North. I can now see everything from my car window. It's beautiful. It's horrible".

Mostly, I hope I'm around in fifty years to make photographs of the space. And, probably, I'll drive.

No comments:

Locations of visitors to this page