The trail of news articles documents the problems surrounding the Port of Anchorage's expansion. From 1998 to today questions continue to be asked.

Questions about the Port of Anchorage Expansion Project


Note: All articles open in a new window.


October 21
Anchorage Daily News reports 30 ft. tides in Cook Inlet dislodge foam blocks used to suspend pipeline construction above mud flats. 'There's a little bit of a learning curve involved,' said project engineer Joe Nash.

December 3
Anchorage Daily News reports U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will dredge a milelong near Fire Island in 1999 as part of the biggest dredging project ever in Cook Inlet. Project estimated cost, as much as $12.6 million, has doubled since 1995, and it's unclear whether there will be enough funds to dig a channel wide enough to keep erosion from clogging it in a year or two. Dredging is reported to start in May and take two summers. Manson Construction will use special bucket with a capacity of 24 cubic yards, big enough to fill a large dump truck with a signal scoop.

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January 13
The News Tribune (Tacoma, WA) reports TOTE announces plans to build larger vessels with longer, deeper design for their Alaska market.

May 12
Anchorage Daily News reports Environmental groups demand U.S. Army Corps of Engineers halt dredging in Cook Inlet citing declining population of beluga whales. Native subsistence hunting blamed for beluga decline as Sen. Ted Stevens, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, tries to rush a provision into law that would make subsistence hunting of the whales illegal without a co-management agreement between hunters and the National Marine Fisheries Service.


US Census reports 2000 State of Alaska population at 626,932 and Anchorage municipal population of263,746


March 14
Port asks fee hike - Assembly is told rates are lower than those at other ports.

June 20
Anchorage Daily News reports new Port Director, Bill Sheffield, gives Anchorage Assembly tours of Port to publicize the city-owned port, and open dialogue among the city, the port and the businesses that operate there. 'I want to make sure the Assembly knows what they're in charge of,' Sheffield said. The Assembly oversees the operation of the port and makes all approvals. Don Dietz, former Port Director, estimated the port served 80% of Alaskans and had an annual economic impact of $725 million.

First priority is to expand one of the port's five docks, said Sheffield, as recommended by a port master plan developed two years ago. The dock is relatively small and handles only petroleum. Expansion is targeted for 2005. It could then handle bigger cargo ships, like two being built for the Tacoma-to-Anchorage route by cargo shipping company TOTE. Second priority is to deepen the harbor, from 35 feet deep at low tide to 45 feet. More than $2 million in federal funds are already dedicated to annual dredging by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers&

November 9
Congress approves $2.7 million to Port of Anchorage for harbor dredging and $500,000 to study further deepening of the harbor. Another $2.2 million will go toward dredging shoals in Cook Inlet. Anchorage Mayor Wuerch says port needs improvements to keep up with shipping demands resulting from development and projected increases in tour ship traffic.

December 28
Anchorage Officials argue that major port reconstruction is needed to handle population boom expected by 2020  predict population doubling. Sheffield expects to begin dock construction in 2002.

US Census reports that 2010 State of Alaska population is 710,231 and Municipality of Anchorage population is 291,826  a total 10 year increase of 83,399 and 28,080 respectively  or, 1,337,063 persons and 555,572 persons shy of Sheffields partial justification for overbuilding port infrastructure.

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January 4
Anchorage Daily News reports UAA Workshop discusses serious natural hazards to Alaskas infrastructure. Most threatened cited include ports of southcentral . 'There is a real need for science and engineering to mitigate the risk where we have our greatest economic infrastructure -- the Port of Anchorage&' University of Alaska Anchorage chancellor Lee Gorsuch told the engineers, scientists, planners and others attending. Proper engineering and design with sensible maintenance cited as essential. 'It's very difficult to mitigate hazard,' said Anchorage engineer John Aho, an expert in evaluating seismic risk to buildings. 'An earthquake is going to happen. The windstorm is going to occur whether you like it or not. But what we can mitigate is the risk.' Port Director Sheffield states 'We need to be doubly sure that the infrastructure is as safe as it can be.'

March 10
Shifting ice makes navigating Cook Inlet's notorious tides more challenging in winter.

May 24
Alaska Legislators appropriate $15 million for the Port of Anchorage expansion

November 12
Anchorage Daily News reports Wuerch and Sheffield appoint group of 10 geotechnical engineers to assess the underwater soils in Knik Arm. MOA comprehensive plan says the port will need to be expanded to accommodate growth at the facility, expected to double in the next 20 years. Concerns raised that open cell plan proposed and patented by Peratrovich, Nottingham & Drage Inc. Same design used at Point MacKenzie raised concerns by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which noted possible signs that the dock is shifting. The corps also said soil underlying the dock contains a weak layer that could cause the dock to collapse in an earthquake. PN&D officials disputed the claims about the integrity of the dock, which opened in 2001.

At about $150 million, Nottingham says his design is at least $100 million less than the one being proposed by Anchorage-based Tryck Nyman Hayes Inc.'s dock expansion plan. That plan calls for a new deep-draft, multipurpose dock extension that would accommodate ships up to 1,000 feet long.

John Daley, project engineer with Tryck Nyman Hayes, said his company's design of a pile-supported dock is the best application for the Port of Anchorage. Pile-supported docks are used at all major deep-water ports on the West Coast, Daley said.

December 9
Anchorage Daily News reports engineering report says underwater soils in Knik Arm may not support a proposed open-cell sheet-pile dock design as submitted by Anchorage-based Peratrovich, Nottingham & Drage. Report says PN&D's design 'does not appear feasible. Firm was hired after the port's top engineer, Richard Burg, lost his job last spring over differences in the direction that expansion plans should take. Burg said he could not support PN&D's expansion plan being pushed by the port director, former Gov. Bill Sheffield.

Burg had been working with engineers at Tryck Nyman Hayes Inc. drawing up plans for a new deep-draft dock expansion at the Port of Anchorage. The city has already spent $1.5 million for that plan. But Sheffield has been interested in PN&D's plan since he believed it would save the city millions in construction costs and double the existing facility.

'We'll try to prove it feasible. If not, we'll do something else,' Sheffield said. 'We are going to do it right.'

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April 10
Sheffield expects decision by late summer or early fall about what method will be used. Study
commissioned to determine suitability of "open-cell sheet-pile" dock design submitted by Anchorage-based Peratrovich,Nottingham and Drage. Sheffield said expansion expected to begin in 2004 with $56 million in hand and 60 percent ofthe total cost covered by the federal government, with remainder coming from port profits, revenue bonds and state grants.

April 22
Sheffield says seismic study is delaying port work including current dock expansion, new equipment, new
multipurpose dock construction, a barge loading facility, a storage facility and road and rail access. Officials asked toprove dock construction can withstand a major earthquake. Sheffield construction of the port expansion would lastthrough 2008.


June 3
$1 million Knik Arm seismic study undertaken to determine safest design for dock expansion 
open-cell sheet-pile versus conventional pilings.

June 14
Anchorage Daily News reports Mayor Wuerch and Port Director Sheffield asked Anchorage Assembly to sign off on MARAD as lead agency in charge of port expansion. The Maritime Administration, part of the Department of Transportation, is charged with promoting the development and maintenance of the U.S. merchant marine fleet.
In 2002, Congress passed legislation expanding the agency's powers, authorizing it to receive and administer funding from all sources, federal or otherwise, for port expansion projects. Port officials say that will make for a more efficient project, streamlining the environmental and subcontracting process. MARAD named Koniag Services Inc. as the local project manager. $141 million in federal funding is expected for the expansion project, with the remaining $86 million coming from local sources, including $30 million of port revenue bonds, port profits and state grants and bonds.

June 21
Anchorage Daily News reports Port of Anchorage officials defend plan to transfer the administration of port expansion project to MARAD. Assembly calls special hearing on the port after being asked to sign off on deal. Sheffield stresses MARAD will act only as agent of port project and port officials will remain in control. Sheffield also said proposed management structure would make for a more efficient project because it would speed the environmental assessment and subcontracting process; will allow MARAD to make direct payments of all the funding, as opposed to the traditional framework where the local agency pays upfront and then waits to be reimbursed by the federal lead agency. Sheffield also presented the Assembly with an addition to the memorandum of understanding in which MARAD will maximize the use of local firms for the port expansion work "to the extent practical and permitted under applicable federal law."

June 26
Anchorage Daily News reports that city lawmakers have endorsed a $227 million development plan for the Port of Anchorage that gives port officials a way to tap into the federal money they say they'll need to do the work. The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday signed off on a memorandum of understanding that makes the federal Maritime Administration, or Marad, the lead agency that will handle the collection and distribution of all funding, federal or otherwise, for the huge project. Local engineering and construction contractors urged the Assembly to reject the plan, arguing that they won't get their fair share of the work contracts because Koniag's 8(a) status also exempts it from the competitive bidding process that is required of other companies managing city projects. Federal law prohibits mandates for local hire to be written into procurement provisions.

August 15
Anchorage Daily News reports that sea floor tests for dock expansion are nearly complete  $1.25 million paid by MARAD. Report should be finished in two months.

August 19
Anchorage Daily News reports that U.S. military officials are considering adding the Port of Anchorage to a list of strategic ports of departure, a move that could make it easier to get federal funding for a planned $227 million redevelopment project, according to port director Bill Sheffield.
The Military Traffic Management Command, which is in charge of moving troops and gear by land and sea, designates some commercial ports as "strategic ports" that can support major force deployments. It selects them on their proximity to deploying units, transportation links to those units and port characteristics.
"We're hoping it will be as quick as possible, because that designation would make it a lot easier to get federal funds," Sheffield said. The money would be used to help pay for a huge overhaul of the city-owned port.

September 9
Anchorage Daily News reports that Senator Stevens, as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Stevens, R-Alaska, is earmarking the following funding related to the Port of Anchorage expansion:
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE - $1.5 million: Current and tide data that will boost development of the Port of Anchorage and $150,000: Cook Inlet beluga research.
FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION - $1.5 million: Port of Anchorage intermodal facility.
FEDERAL TRANSIT ADMINISTRATION - $3 million: Anchorage Ship Creek intermodal facility and $3 million: Port of Anchorage intermodal facility.

December 19
Anchorage Daily News reports that underwater soil study in Knik Arm at the Port of Anchorage has found that soils are strong enough to support the planned deep-draft dock.

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April 2
Anchorage Daily News reports Congressman Don Young radically increased funding for Alaska projects in the national highway bill Thursday, including $25 million for improvements at the Port of Anchorage.

May 1
Anchorage Daily News reports the U.S. Coast Guard is beefing up Port of Anchorage security by fielding a specially trained 100-member team at the port, officials said Thursday. Members of the Maritime Safety and Security Team, or MSST, will start arriving this summer but the unit won't be fully operational until next April, said Anchorage-based Coast Guard Capt. Ronald Morris. Port of Anchorage is only the 13th port to be assigned an MSST out of the 361 seaports across the nation, according to the Coast Guard. No specific terrorism threat against the port fueled the expansion, Morris said.

May 18
Associated Press reports the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Denali Commission plan to spend more than $750 million on construction projects this season, including a two-year, $13.5 million contract to dredge an area in Cook Inlet to allow large ships to come into the Port of Anchorage.

August 17
Anchorage Daily News reports the U.S. Defense Department has added the Port of Anchorage to a short list of strategic ports of departure, a move that could make it easier to get federal funding for a massive redevelopment project. The military gives commercial ports the "strategic" designation and partners with ports that can support major force deployments.

August 18
Associated Press reports the Port of Anchorage has been added to a Defense Department list of strategic ports of departure, a designation port officials say could help secure federal funding for a large chunk of a $300 million expansion.

December 20
Anchorage Daily News reports port expansion plans funding totaling $15 million for the Port of Anchorage's intermodal facility.

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January 16
Alaska Journal of Commerce reports Former Gov. Bill Sheffield believes there has been enough talk already. It's time for the city and private investors to get off their heels and spend some of their energies making things happen in and around Ship Creek, said Sheffield, now director of the Port of Anchorage. "We've all agreed that we have studied it to death and talked it to death, now it's time to start doing things and start planning," Sheffield said. "We've got some money already to start things and we'll get more as we need it."

March 11
Washington Post reports the US House approved a $284 billion transportation bill which includes $25 million for Port of Anchorage improvements.

March 11
Anchorage Daily News reports Port of Anchorage can go ahead with its $360 million redevelopment project now that federal regulators have determined it will have no significant impact on the surrounding environment.

March 12
Associated Press reports federal regulators have approved a $360 million redevelopment project of the Port of Anchorage. The Federal Maritime Administration endorsed the project this week, determining that it will have no significant impact on the surrounding environment.
The first phase, to improve rail and road access, began last summer and is expected to be completed in July, said Kevin Bruce, director of business development at the city-owned port. The expansion is expected to be finished in 2011.

July 29
Fairbanks News Miner reports $230 million national highway bill includes $57 million for improvements at the Port of Anchorage.

July 29
Anchorage Daily News reports $286.4 billion transportation bill before the U.S. House includes $25 million for improvements at the Port of Anchorage, $5 million for the Anchorage-Mat-Su ferry.

September 7
Anchorage Daily News reports Anchorage Geotechnical Advisory Commission says Port of Anchorage officials and consultants should explain why they're not designing a major expansion project to more stringent earthquake standard. Commission also recommends project design be reviewed by an independent panel of experts,
"Given the importance of the port to statewide commerce, life-safety in the event of a natural disaster and its designation as a strategic port, the commission believes that it should be considered an 'essential facility,' " the commission said in a letter to port director Bill Sheffield.

Other commissioners and staffers questioned why port consultants hadn't yet discussed their plans with city building officials, who they said would eventually have to decide if the project meets codes. Making changes to meet building requirements at the last minute is more expensive than anticipating them, commissioners said. The commission suggests an independent expert conduct a risk assessment for the port project, drawing on information from emergency services providers, local building officials and representatives of other port stakeholders, including the Alaska Railroad, fuel tank farm operators, the military and food distributors. Technical specifications for the expansion, including a plan to use a relatively new construction technology called "open cell sheet pile" structures, also should be reviewed by an independent group of engineers and experts.

September 20
Anchorage Daily News Commentary author, Jan Konigsberg, cites concerns 8,800 foot long sheet pile dock, extending more than 400 feet from shore, and will obliterate another 135 acres of intertidal and subtidal habitat and greatly impact Ship Creek salmon but also to juvenile salmon from other Anchorage and the Mat-Su streams. Author recommends Corps suspend further permitting until impact studies are complete and completed and until a mitigation plan has been developed with public involvement.

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January 28
Federal Register: Availability of a Finding of No Significant Impact - ACTION: Notice of the availability of a finding of no significant impact and finding of no practicable alternative. The objective of this Project is to extract and transport suitable fill material for the Port of Anchorage Intermodal Expansion (Expansion). The Expansion will improve and enhance the existing dock and terminal capability at the Port to facilitate the transportation of goods and people within the State of Alaska.

February 28
Associated Press reports the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is embarking on a status review to determine if the belugas need the protection of the federal Endangered Species Act. A listing was rejected in 2000 because then it was believed that overharvesting was to blame. Scientists also will look at development around the inlet, including the expansion of the Port of Anchorage. Waste discharges will be considered, as well as the impact of oil and gas development.

April 10
Anchorage Daily News reports expansion plans at the Port of Anchorage could threaten the popular Ship Creek salmon fishery and the already badly depleted stock of Cook Inlet beluga whales, three federal agencies say. The National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the EPA recommend holding up permits for work set to begin next year until more thorough analyses of its effects on Knik Arm are completed. The port should also consider alternative, less harmful designs for a new 1.7-mile-long dock, the agencies say. "It's a good project, a necessary project, and we don't plan on hurting anything," Sheffield said.

The environmental agencies say port planners haven't considered legally required alternative dock designs that would have less effect on fish and whales. Instead of the long, solid-wall dock planned by the port and its consultants, the agencies say one partially supported by pilings would reduce the amount of fill and allow fish to continue using the shallow, intertidal habitat, even if it is directly under the newly expanded port. All three agencies said the Corps of Engineers also should require the port to do better evaluations of the effects of storm and drain runoff, and the EPA says the port needs to do more sampling for contaminants that may be buried in areas to be dredged or on port grounds that will be disturbed by construction.

April 22
The Federal Register provides the following: The purpose of this Notice is to make available to the public the draft Finding of No Significant Impact/Finding of No Practicable Alternative (FONSI/FONPA) for the Port of Anchorage Intermodal Expansion, North End Runway Material Extraction and Transport Project (Project).
A draft Environmental Assessment (EA), dated March 2006, was prepared that analyzed the potential impacts on the human and natural environment associated with the proposed material extraction activities at the North End Borrow Site and potential transportation corridors located on Elmendorf Air Force Base (EAFB). A final EA and a final FONSI/FONPA will be published once comments have been properly addressed.

October 16
Anchorage Daily News reports Cook Inlet's white whales still declining; U.S. again considers endangered status. Seven years after a virtual halt to Native subsistence hunts was thought to have put a depleted stock of Cook Inlet beluga whales on a path to recovery, marine mammal scientists counting the bright white whales from the air last summer spotted fewer than ever.

Mayor Mark Begich cited concern an endangered species listing could delay a major expansion under way at the Port of Anchorage. Already, three federal agencies have asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to hold up permits for a new dock until more analysis of its effects on Ship Creek salmon is done.

Advocates of stronger protection for the whales say those fears are overstated. Listing a species as endangered doesn't apply brakes to most development, said Bob Shavelson of Cook Inletkeeper, one of the organizations petitioning for the listing. It means federal agencies must consult with NMFS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on projects that may affect the animals. In almost all cases, the agencies find ways for projects to proceed without harming the animals listed, Shavelson said, citing a 1992 General Accounting Office report to Congress.

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January 10
Anchorage Daily News reports Anchorage Mayor wants millions from the state Legislature for new and renovated buildings including $25 million for expanding the Port of Anchorage and a new $18 million fisheries and information learning center near Ship Creek.

June 6
VSE Acquires Services Company ICRC (Integrated Concepts and Research Corp), a technical and
management services provider to federal customers. ICRC, provides IT services to the U.S. Army Corps and isoverseeing the intermodal expansion of the Port of Anchorage in Alaska.

August 10
The Port of Anchorage receives permit from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers allows the port to fill in 108
acres of tidal land, on top of 27 acres already filled in. Plans call for a new dock made of cells of steel and stretching about8,000 feet long with riprap extending beyond.

August 27
Maritime Administration team announces record time for project approval for port expansion of 135 acres
on the Cook Inlet waterfront. The Army Corps of Engineers project permitting process often takes 7 to 10 years, butMARAD specialists accomplished the regulatory task in just 4 years. The Port of Anchorage Intermodal ExpansionProject is scheduled for completion in 2013.

August 27
MARAD team reports Port of Anchorage development project gains approval in record time. Army
Corps of Engineers project permitting process often takes 7 to 10 years, but MARAD specialists accomplished theregulatory task in just 4 years. MARAD anticipates completion in 2013.

November 10
US Senate defense spending bill to President for signature includes $11 million for upgrades to the Port of
Anchorage, money that a Stevens spokesman said will "enhance deployment capabilities of the Stryker Brigade combatteams."

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January 27
Port officials estimate half of $500 million cost will be covered by congressional earmarks and the departments of Defense, Transportation and Homeland Security. Shipping industry experts say such robust federal assistance for an expansion is unusual. With Congressman Don Youngs help, MARAD has guided the project through a normally slow environmental permitting process in record time, industry experts said. Others say MARAD is averse to public scrutiny and has enabled project to be hidden in by national security reasons.

March 18
Small Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Port of Anchorage Marine Terminal Redevelopment Project - NMFS received application from Port of Anchorage to take small numbers of marine mammals, by Level B harassment, incidental to the 5-year Phase II portion of the Marine Terminal Redevelopment Project (herein after "Project") at the Port, Anchorage, Alaska. Species which could be potentially taken from Port construction include the beluga whale, harbor seal, harbor porpoise, and killer whale. NMFS is requesting comments on its proposal to issue a 1-year incidental harassment authorization (IHA) for the 2008 construction season (April-October) and its intent to promulgate regulations in 2009 governing the take of marine mammals over a 5-year period incidental to the activities described herein.

March 23
Anchorage Daily News reports Sheffield amassing political support for port expansion with cost estimates up to $700 million, more than doubling its land mass. Biologists fear harm to salmon and beluga whales; engineers cite concerns of seismic instability; environmental and neighborhood concerns continue.

April 3
U.S. Amy Corps of Engineers urged to Engineers urged to revoke permit for port project. Groups say
corps used bad information.

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January 15
Anchorage Daily News reports the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is asking for public comments on a plan by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough to build a ferry landing south of the mouth of Ship Creek in Anchorage.
Anchorage plans to turn Ship Creek into a tourist destination and city officials don't believe the ferry would fit. They would prefer to put the ferry landing at the Anchorage port.

February 15
Anchorage Daily News reports Port Director Sheffield looks to federal stimulus money for $175 million to put 1,500 Alaskans to work on port expansion project. "We've been employing 500-plus in the last few years in the summertime" on the port's existing construction schedule, he said, adding that accelerating the expansion timeline would save millions in the long run.

"This year anyway we're going to put in about 2,000 more feet of dock," Sheffield said. "If I had the stimulus money I would be working on the south end (too) ... filling more ground, driving sheet pile ... plus I've got land I've already got filled I could start utilities in." But the port project has its critics too. Bob Shavelson, head of the conservation group Cook Inletkeeper, has written to Congressional leaders asking them to bar the port project from stimulus money until there's a better showing of the need for the expansion, and until questions about its effects on salmon and beluga whales have been resolved.

April 30
Anchorage Daily News reports the ferry being built for use between Anchorage and Port MacKenzie across Knik Arm may end up having to find other ports for a while after it is launched next year. But the landings on both the Anchorage and Mat-Su sides have yet to be built and still need millions of dollars in funding. Meanwhile, there has been continued opposition to a potential landing spot on the Anchorage side, including a Coast Guard letter released last week saying if the borough builds on the site it prefers in Anchorage, collisions between the ferry and tugboats or private boaters could occur. The two communities had agreed to work together on the ferry project. Anchorage committed $150,000 to planning and design. But outgoing Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich ended that agreement in December, about two weeks before he resigned to be sworn in as a U.S. senator.

"We have both recognized for some time now that the project is no longer a joint venture, and terminating this agreement is essentially a housekeeping matter to square the record with practice," Begich stated.
Anchorage officials have asked the borough to build the landing at the nearby Anchorage port. But Mat-Su officials have a long list of objections to using the port, chief among them that ferry passengers would have to pass through security checkpoints, which could deter potential riders.

An Anchorage transportation committee last week voted to start a series of public hearings to see if the bridge should be removed from Anchorage's long-term transportation plan. The project must stay in the plan to qualify for federal funding.

March 12
Anchorage Daily News reports the port plans to apply for $175 million in stimulus funds to pay for a portion of its $700 million expansion project. The grant would come from $1.5 billion in discretionary funds that the U.S. Secretary of Transportation is authorized to dole out. Ribuffo said the money would result in considerable savings for the port by accelerating the project and shaving some $60 million off the total cost by allowing them to order materials early and in bulk.

September 17
Anchorage Daily News reports the Port of Anchorage's director, former Alaska Gov. Bill Sheffield talks about the port's intermodal expansion project that will create two more berths for ships, barge docks and 135 acres of new ground. The total cost of the project, which should be completed by about 2014, is estimated to be in the $700 million range. The Port of Anchorage serves 85 percent of the state.

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April 21
Anchorage Daily News reports $20 million for Port of Anchorage expansion in state capital budget now on its way to the Governor.

May 11
Anchorage Daily News reports Port of Anchorage expansion project is running years behind schedule and is costing millions more than budgeted, port officials acknowledge. The latest price estimate is $750 million to $800 million, double the $375 million estimated three years ago. "But it might even be more than that," Sheffield said.
The project was to be completed by 2015; Sheffield now puts the finish at maybe 2017 or so. Shipping companies say it might not be until 2020.

One of the expanded port's first sections scheduled to be finished -- a big new area on the north side, where cargo ships will dock during the rest of the construction -- is two to three years behind the schedule published on the project website and relied on by the shipping lines. Horizon Lines Inc. bought three new giant cranes for $25 million to unload containers at that newly built area as soon as early next year, said Ken Privratsky, the Anchorage-based senior vice president of Horizon's Pacific group, including Alaska. But the area isn't done.

"It's not going to be ready until probably now at least 2014, and so we're selling the cranes," Privratsky said. "I can't afford to have $25 million in capital investment sit idle. That's a fact and it's probably, in my mind, the worst possible signal for this city, relative to that project."

The other big cargo line, Totem Ocean Trailers Express Inc., or TOTE, also is experiencing headaches. Its ships have had to leave the dock early during extreme low tides because of construction-related silt in its berth.

May 16
Anchorage Daily News reports growing shoal near port narrowing navigation channel. Anchorage port officials are worried about the shoal, too. The inlet's dramatic tidal fluctuations require precise timing for cargo deliveries. Sometimes, the pilots said, winter ice, winds and swirling currents can make turning a big ship into the port a harrowing experience. Pilots and other mariners have been discussing the shoal with Anchorage port officials for almost two years now but they are having a tough time getting anything done about it. Port of Anchorage Director Bill Sheffield tried but failed this year to get a $1 million appropriation put into the $3 billion capital budget that the Legislature approved in mid-April. The pilot association, TOTE and a second cargo shipper, Horizon Lines, have sent letters to the Corps of Engineers asking it to do something. Sheffield went to Mat-Su legislators saying he thought it would easier for the Mat-Su lawmakers to get the money because Anchorage "always has so many projects in the budget."

His idea backfired. Mat-Su Borough officials disagree that their dock is to blame and they argue that the shoal is not a serious obstacle for ships. In interviews, Mat-Su officials said that if it's true that the shoal is growing, it's probably because the Corps dumps the millions of cubic yards of sediment that it dredges at the Anchorage port and puts into the deep waters of the shipping lane.

August 5
The Associated Press reports conservation groups filed a request Wednesday to challenge the state in its lawsuit seeking to overturn the listing of beluga whales off Alaska's largest city as endangered. The groups, including Defenders of Wildlife and Natural Resources Defense Council, are seeking to uphold the Endangered Species Act listing of a few hundred beluga whales in Cook Inlet. A half-dozen groups filed their request in federal court in Washington, D.C., the same court where the state filed its lawsuit in June.

November 22
Anchorage Daily News reports Alaska moving into new era as Congress' earmarks fall out of favor. Port of Anchorage is taking a wait-and-see approach, said its director. The city-owned port is in the midst of a $750 million to $800 million expansion project that because of its sheer size is almost certain to require federal help. But Sheffield said he's confident Congress would consider additional funding regardless of any Republican earmark moratorium.

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January 16
Anchorage Daily News Editorial asks of the port project: What's going on here? And who's in charge?
The port's expansion is beset with problems, and it's not clear who's in charge or what the solutions are.

Total cost of the project has swelled from an estimated $360 million to $1 billion. So far, $279 million in public money -- federal, state and city -- has been spent or committed. It's not clear who will pay for the rest, more than $700 million.

  • The finishing date has gone from 2011 to 2021.
  • Much of the recent construction work on the project has been to undo what's been done to fix it. Warped, bent and buckled steel sheets have had to be pulled up and replaced. One-third of the designed project has been done, but much of it has to be redone.
  • Some engineers question whether the planned project to create 135 acres of new land in Cook Inlet makes sense. The city's own Geotechnical Advisory Committee, made up of engineers, wants an outside, independent review of the project.
  • The city has consistently gone to the state for money to help keep the project going.
  • The city handed oversight of the project to the federal Maritime Administration, which in turn hired contractors to do the work. But no one seems to be taking responsibility for what's gone wrong. That's no surprise, due to fear of claims and lawsuits that may be coming.
  • The big shippers -- Horizon and TOTE -- don't have much faith in the project. A retired Horizon executive called it a "mess" and fears more problems will be discovered. Neither shipper is confident that promised permanent berths will be built.
    Two things should happen before we pour hundreds of millions more into this project:
  • Get an outside, independent review of the engineering and an audit of budget and spending. The advisory committee is right about this. There's too much doubt about what's gone on to go forward without more assurance.
  • Make clear not just who is in charge but who is responsible and to what extent. Exactly what is the role of port director Bill Sheffield? The city? The feds? Right now we seem to have a lot of unhappy players but no one taking the lead to make sure the project is done right.

January 16
Anchorage Daily News reports port project stalled under cloud of construction troubles and ballooning costs. The price tag, which was $360 million as of 2005, has escalated to $1 billion.Some engineers are questioning whether the new dock can even be built as designed. Much of the work done in 2010 involved dismantling construction from just a year earlier. Numerous sheets of steel that were planted in Cook Inlet as part of the dock expansion have been ripped up and now lie stacked in twisted and warped piles at the port.A city advisory commission is urging an independent review of "all aspects of the design, including the ... constructability."

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, who was Anchorage mayor when the dock project got going, has been a big supporter over the years. Now he has concerns, too.

" I am troubled by reports I have received of complications during this year's construction season and of the potential financial ramifications for federal taxpayers and for other entities which have contributed funding for the expansion project," the senator wrote in a Dec. 15 letter to the federal Maritime Administration, which is overseeing the project.

Among other things, he sought an accounting of the spending and an explanation of what went wrong with the construction.
Port of Anchorage: A billion-dollar mess?

January 20
Commentary by Bill Sheffield in the Anchorage Daily News defending Port Project agreeing there are some oversight problems and protection issues not adequately addressed by this arrangement. Additionally Sheffield asserts:

  • The port is demanding a major review of the contract between MARAD and ICRC in anticipation of the April renewal date. The new structure must provide clear accountability and absolute protection from faulty design, construction and oversight.
  • The port is ordering a forensic investigation be performed as soon as possible to establish the cause and extent of the damaged sheet pile installed prior to 2010.
  • The port is requiring additional financial protection to assure the work is completed on time with outstanding workmanship.
  • The port is developing an oversight committee consisting of the port, MARAD, ICRC, and appointees from the city, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and others.

January 23
Alaska Journal of Commerce reports Port Director Sheffield acknowledges difficulties with the now $1 billion port expansion but says constructions managers are getting a handle on the problems. Sheffield points to lack of oversight and shabby work as part of the problem as well as port officials needing more of a role in management and we need some protection, such as some kind of performance bond for contractors.

February 24
Anchorage Daily News reports Port Director Sheffield asks Legislature for $320 million for massive dock replacement project, but the initial signs are that it won't get nearly that much money. The city-owned Port of Anchorage is in the midst of $1 billion-plus replacement of the old existing dock with a new structure; port project has secured and mostly spent $279 million, but the project needs $922 million more, Sheffield said. Of the $279 million in federal, state and other funding the port has collected for the project, it has spent all but $14 million. It expects to recover some of that through claims against the faulty work done in 2009, he said. Numerous U-shaped steel cells installed then ended up bent, mangled or otherwise damaged and must be replaced. Most of the 2010 construction season was spent dealing with the problem. The project is now hundreds of millions of dollars over budget and a decade behind a plan set in 2005.

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