Story last updated at 1:37 p.m. Thursday, May 9, 2002

Arctic access remains open
After years of using a seven-mile-long road from Deadhorse to the Arctic Ocean, BP Alaska told tour companies this winter it was closing the road for security.

But the state had a different reading of BP's oil lease. According to the Department of Natural Resources, the oil company cannot restrict access to tidelands.

"They have a right to alter lease terms in emergency situations, such as when a rig turns over, moving a modeule, extreme weather conditions or a national emergency situation," department commissioner Pat Pourchot said. "In our estimation, BP did not warrant the closure."

While BP wanted to stop tourists from using the access road out of security fears, the state suggested a better solution would be to beef up security patrols. BP agreed and lifted the closure.

However, tour companies will be banned from touring the oil fields. And BP reserves the right to cancel, delay or reschedule tours if an emergency arises. "It depends on what's going on around the world," said BP spokesman Ronnie Chappell.

Continued access is good news for tour operator Brett Carlson of Northern Alaska Tour Co. The Arctic tours account for half the company's business, he said. "People have strong images about getting to the Arctic Ocean." <> Fairbanks Daily News-Miner