Press Release

Settlement Agreement Recognizes State Ownership of Kotsina River

July 31, 2017

(Anchorage, AK) – The Alaska Department of Law announced today that it has reached agreement with Ahtna, Inc. on the State’s ownership of a critical part of the Kotsina River riverbed. The settlement agreement will result in a court judgment that clarifies ownership of the Kotsina River delta and ensures continued public access to the shore lands of the Copper and Kotsina Rivers into the future.

“It has always been the State’s position that the Kotsina River is navigable in this area,” said Attorney General Lindemuth. “This settlement recognizes that fact and provides continued public access to the rivers. I appreciate Ahtna’s willingness to settle these matters and avoid an unnecessary and expensive trial.”

The settlement stems from a lawsuit brought by Ahtna in 2008 that challenged a Department of Transportation (DOT) material site and sought to prohibit camping and the launching of boats within a DOT right-of-way. In defense against Ahtna’s claims, the State asserted ownership of the relevant lands underlying the Kotsina River because the river was navigable. In 2012, the State received favorable rulings from the superior court regarding the material site and right-of-way issues. In those orders, the court found (1) overnight camping in a rest area within the right-of-way and boat launching from the access road are allowed; and (2) DOT can continue to operate the material site located within the Kotsina River delta. The only issue remaining in the case was whether the Kotsina River is navigable, which means the State owns the land underlying the river.

Ahtna and the State have now agreed that the Kotsina River is navigable-in-fact from its confluence with the Copper River upstream eight river miles, and this is reflected in the settlement agreement. Other terms within the settlement agreement include:

  • Ahtna will not appeal the two court orders in favor of the State;
  • Fixed boundaries defining ownership of the delta;
  • Continued access to the fish wheels on state-owned land;
  • Ahtna will grant DOT easements to build and maintain dikes to protect the right-of-way, material site, and public access; and
  • DNR will grant Ahtna two easements to provide access to Ahtna property on the other side of the river and to build dikes to protect its access routes.

CONTACT: Assistant Attorney General Jessie Alloway at (907) 269-5100 or jessie.alloway@alaska.gov.

# # #