The dotted line shows the route for the logging road to be built to Vallenar Bay.

The dotted line shows the route for the logging road to be built to Vallenar Bay. (Map courtesy state Division of Forestry)

The state has taken a major step toward selling timber on Gravina Island.

The Alaska Division of Forestry has awarded a contract to connect an existing road in the Vallenar Bay area to the rest of the island’s road system. Petersburg’s Rock-N-Road Construction won the $3.5 million contract.

Southeast Area Forester Greg Staunton said the contract calls for construction of about 8.5 miles of single-lane logging road with turnouts.

He said work will begin in August and take about a year.

“It means that it’s accessible to the road system at that point and we would proceed with looking at the parcel of land with the idea that we would make some of it available for the demand we have for timber at this time,” he said.

Staunton said the road will greatly improve access to 2,500 acres of the Southeast State Forest.

He said about 600 acres of second- and old-growth timber will be offered for sale. The state’s plan will target two kinds of logging companies.

“One size of operator is the sole proprietor who may employ one or two people and do it all himself. The other class of operator typically has a staff of several dozen and would be building a road or harvesting timber, cutting timber and milling the wood up,” he said.

The other acreage is off-limits to logging due to watershed and habitat protection, as well as other concerns.

The road will eventually increase access to hunting, fishing and other uses.

“While we’re constructing the road out of concern for public safety, the road will be restricted as far as the ability of the general public to drive on it. Once we’re done with construction, though, the public will be able to use the road,” he said.

Funding is from the state’s 2013 capital budget and is part of a larger effort to increase access to natural resources.