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Port Emergency Repair Funding Approved


A template for the construction of two cells. The first cell is 2/3s completed.

Photo courtesy of Mat-Su Borough

A four-inch split in a piece of steel at Port MacKenzie in April has developed into a three-and-a-half foot wide gap today, exposing the barge dock to erosion and ice damage from Knik Arm’s extreme tides. Last night the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly agreed to appropriate $2.5 million for emergency repairs.

Port Director Marc VanDongen awaits word on whether insurance will cover the tear in the port wall. The cause of the split steel on the 16-year-old port is not yet known.

The emergency funding continues construction work that was halted. In five days’ time in October, Van Dongen obtained approval from the US Army Corps of Engineers for emergency repairs, coordinated with the National Marine Fisheries Service for beluga mitigation for driving in 40- to 70-foot steel piles, negotiated a contract with Orion Marine Contractors, mobilized a crane and pipe piles from Seward, and purchased 127 sheet piles from Anchorage.

So far, $250,000 has been spent trying to reduce the erosion to protect critical infrastructure on the barge dock.

The contractor built a retaining wall on the north end of the area threatened by erosion. Some 3,500 cubic yards of gravel was removed from inside two cells next to the split to relieve pressure from inside the dock. There are 15 cells in the barge dock. One cell is eroding. The tear is on what’s called a wye, a vertical piece of steel where two cells meet.

The emergency funds will let the contractor continue its work on building two new interior cells on each side of the damaged wye.

“The repair on this split wye will keep potential damage from occurring on the barge dock and will protect our critical infrastructure on the dock such as the approach trestle to the deep-draft dock, button house, conveyor, rectifiers for the cathodic protection system, transformers, and electrical trailer and panels,” Van Dongen wrote. 

Port MacKenzie is a project cargo and bulk resources port. Last summer, 23 off shore support vessels and nine barges berthed at Port Mac for a natural gas pipeline project for Furie Operating Alaska, LLC . The vessels offloaded concrete-coated pipe from South Korea and later reloaded the pipe bound for Nikiski. The gas gathering pipeline runs 16 miles from a gas production platform in Cook Inlet to Nikiski and is operating today.


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