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Governor clarifies Gravina goals

KETCHIKAN (KDN) — A spokeswoman for Gov. Bill Walker said the administration plans to use the remaining Gravina Access Project money in Ketchikan and nearby communities.

Confusion surfaced during a meeting between local officials, state lawmakers and heads of the Alaska Department of Transportation on Thursday.

DOT Commissioner Marc Luiken said he believed his direction from the governor was to use the "flexible" $77 million in Gravina access funding in DOT’s Southcoast Region, which stretches more than 1,000 miles from Ketchikan to the end of the Aleutian Islands.

"If that’s projects in Ketchikan, that’s great," Luiken told officials from the City of Ketchikan and Ketchikan Gateway Borough.

Borough Manager Dan Bockhorst, Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, and Rep. Dan Ortiz, I-Ketchikan, all argued for keeping that money in Ketchikan.

Ortiz called into the Thursday meeting from Juneau.

Walker Press Secretary Katie Marquette said in an email to the Daily News on Friday that the governor’s "intent is to apply any remaining funds to eligible projects that directly benefit Ketchikan and it's neighboring communities."

She also wrote that if worthy projects "don’t exist, we would look at other project opportunities in the surrounding area that could benefit Ketchikan and the surrounding communities alike."

DOT announced it would not build a bridge between Gravina and Revillagigedo islands on Thursday, opting instead to spend $23 million enhancing ferry service between Ketchikan and its airport.

Most Ketchikan residents long ago lost most hope for a bridge, but the move was still criticized by local officials because the proposed spending didn’t fit local needs.

Bockhorst gave Luiken a list of borough-approved projects, including the replacement of one of the $21 million airport ferries, to review in Juneau.

The Gravina Access Project’s Environmental Impact Statement is expected to be completed by DOT in 2016.