Bethel City Council passed a resolution that pits the city against the state government in a transportation plan. The state and the city both want to ease the strain on local commuters by connecting BIA Road to Ptarmigan Street, but they disagree on the route.
The state’s preferred route would go through Polk Road, a Native allotment owned by the Polk family. The state invoked eminent domain with the Polk family property late last year. The City of Bethel has a problem with the state’s use of eminent domain. The city would prefer that the road go a costlier and slightly longer, but less controversial, way.
Council member Mark Springer said that the council should let the state know that seizing allotments is a bad idea. “I think that it's extremely important for the City of Bethel to oppose that. Bethel is surrounded by Native allotments. I think that we need to recognize the existence of those, and the importance of that private land ownership, and not let the State of Alaska bully private landowners,” said Springer.
If the city supports eminent domain now, it could set a precedent for its use in the future. City Attorney Elizabeth "Libby" Bakalar pointed out that legally, the state does have the right to seize the land.
“Obviously, DOT does have the authority to plan, design, and construct the road in however way that they choose to, ultimately. I think, you know, this resolution expresses displeasure with that process,” Balakar said.
Council members unanimously supported the resolution.