Ahtna and the State Reach Agreement on Historic Gulkana Village Site

Published August 2017

Ahtna and the State of Alask a reached an agreement on a proposed settlement regarding lands along Klutina Lake Road and near the Historic Gulkana Village off the Richardson Highway. The parties have worked for the past five months to settle the details of a proposed agreement. The agreement would resolve a legal dispute that dates back to 2007 regarding property interests and use of Klutina Lake Road. The settlement would also resolve long-standing impacts to the Gulkana historic cemetery and townsite.

In 1943, the federal government bisected what was a thriving village on the Gulkana River to realign the highway and build a new bridge. Families were forced to resettle across the Gulkana River, leaving the historic village cemetery behind, where it has experienced decades of grave desecration. The Native Village of Gulkana, with the assistance of Ahtna and other compassionate organizations, has been working to clear up the title to land in the area ever since.

The settlement also resolves a long-running dispute over land near the Klutina River and Lake. Klutina Lake Road is a narrow, dirt path that follows the bluff of the Klutina River from the Richardson Highway to Klutina Lake, a distance of about 25 miles. It sits within a 60-foot-wide federal 17(b) easement across Ahtna’s land. In 2007, the State cleared certain portions alongside the western part of Klutina Lake Road, removing Ahtna signs and a fee station in the process. Ahtna sued the State f or exceeding the scope of the easement, both in terms of its width and the uses it permits. The parties have been working to resolve this dispute since it w as filed, with little success until this year.

Public meetings will be held in:

Gulkana Tuesday, August 1, fr om 3 – 5 p.m. at the

Gulkana Hall (traveling north on Richardson Highway,

turn right at the sign f or the village after the Gulk ana

River bridge)

Glennallen Tuesday, August 1, from 6:30 – 8:30

p.m. at the Alaska Bible College-Murdock Campus

Center at 200 College Road

Anchorage – Wednesday, August 2, from 6 – 8 p.m.

in Room 104 of the Atw ood Building, 550 West

7th Avenue

Wasilla Thursday, August 3, from 6 – 8 p.m. in

Meeting Room 1-3, Curtis D. M enard Memorial

Sports Center, at 1001 S. Clapp Str eet

Fairbanks Monday, August 7, fr om 6 – 8 p.m. in the

Noel Wien Library auditorium, located at 1215

Cowles Street

Each meeting will consist of an informational session in which details of the proposed settlement will be explained, followed by an opportunity for the public to provide comments. Written comments can be sent to mailto:klutina.settlement@alaska.gov or mailed to Department of Law, c/o Natural Resour ces Section – Klutina/Gulkana Comments, 1031 W. 4th Ave., Suite 200, Anchorage, AK 99501-1994. Written comments must be received by August 30.

Some of the settlement terms Ahtna and the State have agreed to include:

  • Relocation of public parking and other facilities at the Gulkana River boat launch to pr otect the historic townsite and cemetery
  • Transfer of state-owned land in Gulkana to the Native Village of Gulkana and vacation of the Old Richardson Highway right-of-way in exchange for land on the other side of the highway that the State will use for a parking lot
  • An easement from the state’s new parking lot to support additional fee parking, camping and river access on Ahtna land
  • A 100-foot-wide state highway right-of-way along Klutina Lake Road
  • Where the right-of-way intersects with state land under the Klutina River, fishing, daytime parking and boating access (without a trailer) from the Klutina Lake Road right-of-way
  • Three locations along Klutina Lake Road where the public can launch boats using trailers
  • Camping and overnight parking for at least 50 public users per night in locations along the Klutina Lake Road right-of-way, including at Boys’ Camp
  • A new 50-foot-wide state right-of-way to connect Klutina Lake Road to state land on Klutina Lake, replacing the existing trail along the Klutina Lake shore

Public area improvements planned for access to Gulkana River would include:

  • A new parking area upstream of the Richardson Highway Bridge, which is planned to be constructed between 2018 and 2020. The public will be able to continue using the existing access until the new one is built to minimize any disruption to river access
  • Secure fencing to protect the Gulkana Village gravesite area with signage recognizing the cultural and historical significance of the area
  • Restroom facilities during the summer season at both the parking and boat-landing areas
  • Highway-safety signs and measur es to protect pedestrians, including a foot trail under the bridge to connect the parking area and boat landing