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Ahtna rejects land-access dispute deal

FAIRBANKS (AP) — An Alaska Native regional corporation has rejected a proposed settlement from the state of a dispute over public access to Klutina Lake.

Ahtna Inc. has been embroiled in a lawsuit with the state since 2008 over the public’s access to the historic Brenwick-Craig Road, leading from Copper Center to Klutina Lake. Ahtna’s board of the directors voted to reject the settlement offer after considering comments from villages in the area and those submitted to the state during the public comment period, the company said in a Thursday announcement.

“While the parties made an earnest effort with the proposed settlement, the compromises to its private land use rights that Ahtna, Inc. would have made in order to settle the case were simply not worth the certainty and other benefits of a negotiated resolution,” Ahtna’s statement said.

The parties had hoped to have the issue resolved by the summer.

In August, Alaska state Sens. Pete Kelly, Cathy Giessel and John Coghill voiced their own concerns about the proposed settlement. The lawmakers feared it would diminish access to fishing grounds and possibly make it harder for vehicles with trailers to turn around. Under the proposed settlement, the public would have no other form of access if erosion ever occurred in the future until the state ensured a condemnation authority to restore it, the lawmakers argued.

“Now that Ahtna has rejected the settlement, the state can continue to focus on fighting for access for all Alaskans,” Kelly said in his own written statement.

The parties have until Oct. 31 to turn in a status report to a superior judge in Anchorage, according to a statement from Alaska Department of Law. A judge will set a new date for trial.