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Among the concerns related to the proposed Juneau Access Improvements Project is the Steller sea lion haulout at Gran Point (pictured). The haulout at Gran Point is a designated Steller sea lion Critical Habitat Area. According to the Alaska Department of Transportation’s 2014 Juneau Access Improvements Project: Draft Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement, more than one hundred Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) have been counted at the haulout during the spring and fall. As currently proposed the proposed highway would be built just uphill from the haulout area, approximately 100 to 600 feet horizontally and 50 to 100 feet vertically.
Highway plans near the haulout includes blasting steep rock-cut embankments and several tunnels with one tunnel entrance only 550 feet away from the haulout. There is concern for haulout abandonment by the sea lions during highway construction as studies have shown Steller sea lions are very sensitive to noise, both in and out of water. Because Steller sea lions frequent Gran Point nearly year round, the use of explosives and helicopters will be challenging during construction.
There are two distinct populations of Steller sea lions in Alaska. The majority of Stellar sea lions that frequent the Lynn Canal are part of the eastern population of Steller sea lions which are not listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act; unlike the western population of Steller sea lions which are listed as endangered. That said however, there have been confirmed sightings of the western population Steller sea lions at Gran Point.
The Juneau Access Improvements Project is a proposed $570-million highway project to extend Glacier Highway out of Juneau for closer road access to the southeast Alaska towns of Haines and Skagway. Juneau’s roads do not connect with the continental road network. Travelers either have to fly between Juneau, Haines and Skagway, or travel on one of the ferries of the Alaska Marine Highway System.
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- © 2014 John L. Dengler
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Alaska America Department of Commerce Department of the Interior Eumetopias jubatus Gran Point Gran Point Critical Habitat Area Gran Pt. Inside Passage JAI Juneau Juneau Access Improvement Project Juneau Access Improvements Juneau Road Juneau Road Project Lynn Canal Lynn Canal Highway NOAA NOAA Fisheries National Marine Fisheries Service National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration North America Sea Lion Rock Steller sea lion Steller's sea lion The Road Tongass National Forest U.S. U.S. Forest Service US US Forest Service USA USFS United States United States of America animal animals fauna haulout horizontal mammals marine nature no people nobody northern sea lion ocean outdoor outdoors outside pinniped protected land scenery sea sea lion southeast Alaska water wilderness wildlife
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