Alaska Infrastructure Development Update
Experts gather to discuss infrastructure projects statewide
DeLong Mountain Transportation System Port Infrastructure. DMTS services the Red Dog Mine.
Image courtesy of AIDEA
A recent World Trade Center Anchorage Alaska Infrastructure Development Luncheon, hosted by World Trade Center Anchorage Executive Director Greg Wolf, featured five guest speakers: Steven Hatter, Deputy Commissioner for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF); Keith Meyer, President of the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation; Bruce Sexauer, Chief of the Civil Works Branch for the US Army Corps of Engineers—Alaska District (USACE); John Springsteen, Executive Director of the Alaska Industrial Development & Export Authority; and Kristina Woolston, Vice President of External Relations for Quintillion.
The Alaska LNG Project
The WTC luncheon began with an update and highlights of Alaska LNG, which Keith Meyer called the backbone of infrastructure for Alaska’s future. He emphasized the LNG (liquid natural gas) line’s potential not only for exporting but as an energy resource for natural resource development projects. According to Meyer, the Alaska LNG project has the potential to create 8,000 jobs during construction as well as 1,000 long-term operational positions.
The natural gas market is projected to see renewed demand in 2025-2026, which is approximately when the Alaska LNG line is anticipated to come online. The project has the potential to increase Alaska exports by $8 billion to $10 billion annually. According to Meyer, the Alaska LNG is beneficial infrastructure because it enhances trade for the entire US, the use of natural gas can reduce harmful emissions, and “Alaska LNG is needed, competitive, and achievable. Alaskans need to believe in our project and our ability to compete in the global arena.”
Civil Works Branch for the US Army Corps of Engineers—Alaska District
Bruce Sexauer said that while justification for projects remains problematic in Alaska, the civil works program for USACE remains strong and addresses statewide problems. Current USACE projects include the Valdez Harbor Expansion, for which the USACE portion of work is nearing completion; a new breakwater at Port Lions, slated for completion this year; flood plain work at Salmon Creek in Seward, for which construction will begin in 2018; and Bethel bank stabilization, which was awarded recently and funded in the FY17 Workplan. Potential projects for USACE include improvements to the Kotzebue Small Boat Harbor to address lighterage issues; Saint George Harbor improvements; improvements to the harbor at Unalaska/Dutch Harbor; addressing Kenai River Bluff erosion; addressing the Whittier breakwater; work on Lowell Creek flood diversion; and addressing coastal erosion at Utqiaġvik (formerly Barrow). Sexauer emphasized that when there’s money available projects that are ready to go are the projects that get funded, so it’s never too early for communities with a project in mind to contact USACE about their potential involvement.
Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities
Steven Hatter explained DOT&PF’s mission is to “Keep Alaska moving through service and infrastructure.” The design and construction of transportation infrastructure is what occupies the majority of DOT&PF employees and is paid for primarily by federal funds which are appropriated by the State Legislation for use in the Alaska Marine Highway System and the Alaska International Airport System. Operation and maintenance of that infrastructure is funded by state general funds, which has been reduced in recent years. Hatter also presented a few fast facts: there are 5,612 center line miles of roads/highways in Alaska; 240 state airports; 2 international airports; 11 ferries, 9 of which are currently operating; 35 ferry terminals; 21 harbors; 822 DOT&PF-owned bridges; 9 weigh stations; and DOT&PF is one of the largest Alaska departments with approximately 3,433 employees in 85 locations throughout the state.
Alaska Industrial Development & Export Authority
John Springsteen gave an overview of AIDEA as well as some insight into the many connections Alaska has to the rest of the world. AIDEA is a development finance authority for the State of Alaska, providing long-term capital to support economic growth, diversity, and job creation through loans, preferred equity, or conduit revenue bonds. AIDEA’s current assets and projects include the Mustang oil processing facility, Mustang road, the Skagway ore terminal, Snettisham hydroelectric project, Ketchikan shipyard, DeLong Mountain transportation system, Federal Express maintenance facility, Camp Denali Readiness Center addition, and the BlueCrest Energy drill rig. Up-and-coming projects for AIDEA include the Graphite Creek deposit, which would produce spherical graphite primarily for vehicle lithium-ion batteries, and is located north of Nome and requires an all-season access road, power, port facilities, and possibly a manufacturing facility; the Palmer VMS deposit, a high-grade copper-zinc rich deposit located two miles off the Haines highway that requires additional road access, power, and port facilities; and Bokan Mountain-Dotson Ridge, a high-grade heavy rare earth deposit on Gravina Island that requires infrastructure development at the mine site and/or the Gravina Island Industrial Complex in Ketchikan.
To round out the highly informative luncheon, Kristina Woolston gave an update on Quintillion’s Subsea Cable System, which is bringing fiber optics to Alaska’s northern regions. Phase one included a main subsea trunk line in the Alaska Arctic with branch lines to Nome, Kotzebue, Wainwright, Utqiaġvik, and Prudhoe Bay, as well as a terrestrial line from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay. Phase I will be complete this year, and the company will shift its focus to Phase II, which connects the subsea trunk line to Tokyo, and Phase III, connecting the main trunk line to London. Woolston reported that the subsea cable installed in the summer of 2016 was fault-free after the 2017 break-up season and the system has excellent performance and quality.
The World Trade Center Anchorage luncheon was packed with gifted and highly instructive speakers who gave insight—not only into specific infrastructure projects—but Alaska’s continuing potential for industry growth and development.