Public Advocate Alaska shares the story behind the story - why the problems at the Port of Anchorage Expansion matters.

Questions about the Port of Anchorage Expansion Project

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Statement from Public Advocate Alaska

Port of Anchorage looking North from the South end of the dock on one of the 5 days a week the area does not host a ship.I have been concerned about our port for a number of years now. I have worked as a Longshoreman on the Port since 1980 and have witnessed the the last 30 years on the docks. I retired in 2010 and can now be more vocal with my concerns about the port expansion.

The original Port of Anchorage was built in 1961.Prior to that time, freight was brought in to Seward or Whittier.The Port of Anchorage was the only port that remained open following the 1964 earthquake.SEAland was the first major shipper to use Anchorage's port.TOTE began using the Port of Anchorage in 1975.Canadian Pacific tried in 2005 and 2006 to expand into Alaska's shipping but found the existing freight carriers had captured what was available in the market.

I have seen the military use the port perhaps 10 times during the last decade.No doubt they have found it less expensive to use the commercial shippers they use ships built to handle our conditions.TOTE and Horizon's vessels are accustomed to the amount of silt in the water that is pumped in to cool the engines and can handle our port's heavy ice pack during the winter months.

The work on the port expansion in the area by the existing north dock has caused major silting and sediment build up. As has been reported, the sheet metal edging for the dock expansion was installed improperly and had to be removed.Photos of the damaged materials stacked up can be seen in various places in this website.The installation of these materials so near the existing dock sped up the silting problems around where TOTE ties up their ships.TOTE is forced to go to great lengths to avoid damage to the rudder and props of their ships and generally avoid possible groundings during low tide.TOTE has to watch the tides closely so the stern of each ship has enough water to avoid damaging their ships.

Currently, TOTE dredges under their portion of the dock and spends more to bring in longshoremen and personnel at odd hours for unloading.If the silting issue weren't a problem, personnel would work the ships during the day and overtime expense would not be necessary.

Horizon ordered new cranes at a cost of $25 million only to be told the Port would not be ready for quite a few more years.Horizon now has millions in capital investments tied up and they're looking for a buyer for those cranes.If the cranes are sold at a loss who will be blamed?

So what can be done about this billion dollar fiasco?It has been suggested that the State of Alaska should take over the Port of Anchorage operations until the mess is sorted out.Without a doubt, the State of Alaska should withhold any further money until a way through can be devised.

Who is to blame for this mess?The Port of Anchorage and its director falls under the authority of the Mayor of Anchorage.The past three Anchorage mayors, Wuerch, Begich and Sullivan, have let Sheffield run unrestrained through decision after critical decision, setting Alaska behind schedule and under pressure to make this expansion work.The public should be clearly shown projected revenues and who is going to pay for the expansion.

Without a doubt, former Governor Bill Sheffield should be removed as Port Director. I believe an investigative team consisting of forensic accountants and independent engineers should be given access to all documents and get to work getting us back on a track to success.The best course of action needs to be carefully and quickly determined before we destroy or seriously derail this critical project and infrastructure.

Over the past few years, I have spoken to elected officials, leaders at the Port and other Alaskans, asking them to look into this situation. Last year I flew to Juneau during the legislative session and spoke with legislators regarding my concerns about our southcentral Alaska energy crisis. I flew to Juneau again in January during this legislative session to speak to legislators about the billion dollar fiasco at the port and my concerns that, without accountability, they shouldn't continue to fund requests for more funding. I have spoken with Mayor Sullivan, Senator Begich, Anchorage Assembly members and community leaders about my concerns.

I consider myself to be just a concerned Alaskan. I have paid for those efforts and this website out of my own pocket and I am not backed by anyone else or any group. I am alarmed about what is happening to this vital part of our economy. I hope you'll take a moment to read the information I've gathered here and share your concerns with your elected officials. The success of this project will impact more than just Anchorage, it will impact our entire state.

Thank you,

Jack

Public Advocate AK

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