Public comments on the draft Environmental Assessment for improvements to Jims’ Landing in Skilak are due on Saturday. That draft assessment concluded that the area around Jims’ Landing stands to be negatively impacted if existing infrastructure and facilities are expanded, but that the impacts would be insignificant if proper mitigation measures are followed.
The assessment looks at the potential impacts different kinds of improvements would have on the environment at Jims’ Landing, off Skilak Loop Road. Implementing some or all of the proposed improvements, project leads say, would improve safety and access for the estimated 42,000 people who use the boat ramp each year.
The boat launch is located in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area, near Milepost 58 of the Sterling Highway. The project aims to improve boat ramp conditions and pedestrian and vehicle safety, as well as provide more parking capacity for vehicles with and without trailers. The project would also provide an off-site parking area on the south side of the Sterling Highway.
Project alternatives considered in the draft Environmental Assessment include Alternative A, “no action,” Alternative B, limited improvements, and Alternative C, comprehensive improvements. No action means Jims’ Landing would be left as-is. Alternative B would provide for limited improvements at the site targeted toward public safety at the boat ramp and off-site parking. Alternative C would include comprehensive improvements that address safety at the boat ramp, access, bank erosion and off-site parking.
The draft Environmental Assessment identifies Alternative C as the preferred alternative.
“The goal of Alternative C is to improve public safety and recreation experience of the Jims’ Landing facility by increasing parking capacity, improving traffic circulation and boat ramp safety while minimizing impacts to vegetation, wetlands, riparian habitat and floodplains,” the draft assessment says.
Among the impacts to wildlife and fish species under Alternative C would be increased disturbance to wildlife human activities, changes in wildlife activity patterns as a result of those disturbances, a loss of up to 3.2 acres of habitat through the expansion of the existing footprint of Jims’ Landing. The installation of root wads for bank stabilization would benefit fish by providing habitat, according to the assessment.
Project leads held a virtual public review and comment meeting on the project last month via Zoom, where they clarified that there is no plan to start charging people to retrieve their boat at the landing, that under the preferred alternative the size of the boat launch would be replaced with ACB mat and that the island of trees on the launch would be removed.
A general consensus among those who attended a virtual public comment meeting held last month was that Alternative C was the preferred build option with Off-site Parking Option 1.
Off-site Parking Option 1 would see the creation of an angled trailer parking lot near the entrance of Jims’ Landing Access Road, as well as an elevated pedestrian walkway from the parking lot to the landing. Off-site Parking Option 2 would create an angled trailer parking lot on the opposite side of Skilak Lake from Jims’ Landing.
The draft Environmental Assessment will be available from May 5 to June 19 and can be found at fws.gov/refuge/kenai. Public comments will be accepted during the same time period. Written comments can be submitted to PND Engineers, Inc. at 1506 W 36th Ave., Anchorage, AK, 99503 or via email at email@example.com.
More information on the Jims’ Landing Boat Launch Access and Parking Improvements can be found at usfws-jims.blogspot.com.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at firstname.lastname@example.org.