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‘Slow-motion disaster’ threatens Alaska’s key port. Repair cost $1.9 billion?

PortandTerminal.com, November 8, 2019

The Port of Anchorage is literally falling apart, threatening to upend the state’s essential supply chain in what state officials have called “a slow-motion disaster.” Some estimates place the cost of repair at $1.9 billion.

ANCHORAGE, AK – The Port of Alaska is the main point of entry for most of the state’s fuel, food, and building supplies in the state, which is home to 737,000 inhabitants. Approximately 85% of Alaska’s homes and businesses rely on cargo from the port.

The problem is that the port that they rely upon is falling apart. That’s an issue when the next best option to bring supplies into Alaska is a 48-hour truck drive from Anchorage to Seattle.

Anchorage gets $25 million grant for repairs

There was some good news this week though. The Associated Press reported that Anchorage has been awarded a $25 million grant to assist with upgrades to the Port of Alaska. That’s a good first step, but it is only a drop in the bucket in what is needed to keep the port safely functioning.

“Alaskans have been sounding the alarm about the critical state of Alaska’s primary import terminal for years and, thankfully, the Trump administration and Secretary Chao have listened and are taking action to help us,” 

Alaska Congressional Delegation

The funds from the $25 million grant will go towards the first phase of the port’s modernization program – in particular, the renovation of its cement and petroleum dock, which is falling into disrepair. 

The Anchorage Port’s corroded pilings are just one of many signs that the port has fallen into disrepair and urgently needs funding

Much more money is needed though to keep the port operating.

For example, the port says that the dock’s concrete pilings are cracking and might not survive in the event of an extreme earthquake – a real threat, as more than half of the quakes in the United States, occur in Alaska.

Total of $1.9 billion dollars needed?

An estimate by the engineering company CH2M Hill put the cost of repairing and upgrading the Port of Alaska at $1.9 billion. Understandably, many Alaskans had sticker shock when they saw that cost estimate which also came as a surprise to the Anchorage Assembly as well as the mayor’s office.

Recently, the Anchorage Assembly has been looking at ways to reduce the $1.9 billion estimate that was presented to them by CH2M Hill.

“There are some pretty substantial cost increases and I don’t think any of the members of the Assembly are interested in writing a blank check for a project we don’t fully understand”

Anchorage Assemblyman Chris Constant

Jeff Bool with CH2M Hill/Jacobs Engineering, says the price went up because of design, risks, marine mammal protections and escalations on a port with a current design to last 75 years.

“There’s a lot of unknowns,” Bool said. “It’s risky work and very expensive demolition.”

Meanwhile, 737,000 Alaskans keep their fingers crossed and hope that their crumbling port will get them through another winter.


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