USACE, BLM Issue Approval for Energy Pipeline in Alaska
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, AK— The US Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Land Management signed a joint record of decision (JROD) for the Alaska Stand Alone Pipeline Final (ASAP) Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). The record of decision is the last regulatory milestone before the Corps and BLM can exercise their federal authorities.
The Alaska Gasline Development Corporation (AGDC), an independent corporation of the State of Alaska, is proposing the ASAP project which will construct and operate a 733-mile long natural gas pipeline system from Prudhoe Bay to the ENSTAR Distribution System near Big Lake, and a 30-mile long lateral line to Fairbanks, in an effort to provide Alaskans an affordable and reliable source of natural gas from the North Slope. It is designed to bring gas to the major population centers of Fairbanks and Anchorage as well as other communities along the route.
“This is another example of the Corps collaborating with its federal, state and tribal stakeholders to ensure we are delivering for the country and allowing appropriate development that will contribute to energy independence for the nation,” said R.D. James, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works.
“This project exemplifies the Secretary’s priorities of sustainable energy development and establishing infrastructure,” said Joe Balash, Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management for the Department of the Interior. “Clean-burning natural gas is an important energy source for heating, and it would be especially helpful in the interior of Alaska.”
The Corps published a Final EIS for the ASAP project in October 2012. In July 2014, the Corps received a revised Department of the Army permit application from AGDC that identified locations for material sites, access roads, supporting infrastructure and proposed revisions to the project increasing efficiency; enabling gas to be more accessible and affordable; and a reduction of environmental impacts. The Corps prepared a draft and final SEIS in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. The Final SEIS was published in the Federal Register on June 22, 2018.
“I am thankful for the federal team’s dedication to teamwork in Alaska to complete another vigorous environmental review in accordance with our applicable laws, regulations and authorities,” said David Hobbie, Chief of the Alaska District’s Regulatory Division. “Government agencies efficiently working together to make decisions on complex projects eases the burden on taxpayers.”
A Department of the Army permit will be issued to AGDC for the discharge of dredged and fill materials into waters of the US, including wetlands, and the construction of the project in and under navigable waters. The Corps has determined that compensatory mitigation is required to offset losses of certain aquatic resources, including impacts within disturbed watersheds and those adjacent to anadromous waterbodies.
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Authorized by the BLM, the project requires a 299-mile right-of-way through federal lands, mostly along the Trans-Alaska Pipeline corridor in northern Alaska. According to AGDC, construction could begin as early as 2019, employ up to 6,000 workers and take approximately three to four years to complete. Once operational, the project could employ up to 240 full-time employees.
“The BLM is proud to work with our partners in the US Army Corps of Engineers,” said Ted Murphy, BLM Alaska Acting State Director. “Our people work hard to make sure development can proceed in a timely and responsible fashion, being careful to address potential concerns about environmental and cultural impacts while remaining sensitive to the State’s energy needs.”
The Corps’ regulatory program evaluates permit applications for most construction activities in wetlands and waterways of the US. Under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, a permit is required for work or structures in, over or under navigable waters of the US Under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, a permit is required for the discharge of dredged or fill material in waters and wetlands of the US The agency is committed to maintaining and restoring the nation’s aquatic resources, while allowing reasonable development through fair, flexible and balanced permit decisions.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The agency’s mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. Diverse activities authorized on these lands generated $75 billion in sales of goods and services throughout the American economy in fiscal year 2016-more than any other agency in the Department of the Interior. These activities supported more than 372,000 jobs.
Beginning tomorrow, the JROD can be found at https://www.asapeis.com.
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The Alaska Marine Lifeline
The current conversation Alaskans are having was spurred by Governor Mike Dunleavy’s initial budget proposal for 2020, which would cut funding to the AMHS by 75 percent and essentially end most operations by October.