Kenai Fjords National Park will be celebrating its sixth year of the successful Art for Parks program with an art show opening on Friday, May 3 at the Information Center, located in the small boat harbor. From 6pm to 8pm, you can learn about the animals, glaciers, plants, and weather of the park through student art work. This year’s theme is Did You Know? The Truth about Kenai Fjords National Park.
The art show is Kenai Fjords National Park’s way of celebrating National Park Week which occurs every year at the end of April, a little ahead of an ice free road to Exit Glacier. In the past, the park has paired artists with teachers in all of Seward’s classrooms. After five years of excellent art instruction, many teachers will be taking the lead in helping students research facts about the park and communicate them through art. Local artists, including Susan Swiderski, Cindy Capra, Dot Bardarson, and Fiona Ritter-Davis, will assist with projects this year. The show will have a wide variety of media from sculpture to ceramics, and watercolor to block printing.
If you want to see the work of Seward’s young artists and learn about Kenai Fjords National Park, come out for Seward’s First Friday event. The show will be available for viewing after May 3 from May 11 to May 16 in the Information Center.
Welcome Crystal Symphony, Seward’s first cruise ship of the season! Most of the passengers were in Seward today on a port of call and will continue on to Southeast Alaska and then to Vancouver, B.C. Several new passengers joined the ship in Seward for this voyage to Vancouver. This is the only time a Crystal Cruises ship will come to Seward in 2013. Built in 1995 and refurbished in 2009, the Crystal Symphony can carry up to 952 passengers and 566 crew. More information is at their website.
Nichole Feemsters’ mural is going up on the South side of the Library Museum building. The install is being conducted by Harmon Construction. The vibrant colors of the mural match the colors that change with the light on the siding of the building.
Nichole’s design is centered on the idea of stories. We are beginning to see a family, sitting by a fire sharing a story.
Stop by to see the mural come to life, who is listening in while the ‘story’ is being told?
Photo’s by: M Tougas
The mural panels painted during the paint weekend got their last top coating this Saturday. The ‘Top Coat Gang’ has now placed a top coating three different times to get all of the panels ready for their install. Nichole Feemster would like to thank all the volunteers that have come out to help with the mural that she has spent months working on.
Watch for the mural to start it’s install phase on the South side of the Library Museum building this next week. The museum exhibit opening will be coming in May and the mural will be in place!
Photos are taken in the Hertz of Seward garage, where the ‘Top Coat Gang’ has been hard at work…can you recognize anyone?
Welcome to Bits of History! Lee has already taught us about the mountains on the western side of side of Seward. Now he takes us on a journey to the mountains east of Seward. Special thanks goes out to Harold Faust for assisting in the research of this “Bits” segment.
Monday, April 22, 2013 is Earth Day!
Join us for a seminar by our very own Conservation Department staff members.
Monday, April 22, 2013
12-1pm (Brown Bag Lunch)
Alaska SeaLife Center, Bear Mountain Conference Room
Learn about our brand new citizen science websites and June’s GYRE project:
We’ve just launched two new citizen science websites: Alaska Corps of Coastal Observers(AkCCO) and BioMap Alaska. They’re aimed at helping Alaska gather data about coastal processes and animal sightings in all corners of the state. Learn about how we’re involving citizens and what we hope the collected data can do for coastal communities and the environment.
The 4-years-in-the-making GYRE project involves a team of world-renowned artists and scientists traveling out of Seward on the R/V Norseman. They’ll be collecting, studying, and making art from marine debris found on remote Alaskan beaches. Hear more about the exciting group of individuals and organizations involved and the message this project will convey to the world.
For further information on GYRE: http://www.anchoragemuseum.org/galleries/gyre/
Please join us! Free seminar, all welcome.
March was generally characterized by cooler than normal temperatures and above normal precipitation that came and went in a cyclical nature. Throughout the month, pulses of one-to-two day precipitation events delivered approximately 8-12 inches of snow following several days of sunshine each week. This weekly weather pattern increased the snowpack despite the clear sunny spells and lengthening hours of daylight provided by the onset of spring. Seward gained 2 hours and 34 minutes of daylight over the course of the month.
As recorded at the Seward airport, total precipitation for the month was 6.14 inches (139% of normal), 1.72 inches above the 30-year average (1981-2010) for the month. The monthly average temperature for March was 30.2 degrees F; 1.9 degrees F below the 30-year average. March 25th was the windiest day of the month reported at the Seward airport with sustained winds of 21.8 mph and a 5-second wind gust of 45 mph.
Also of note:
- The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center’s three month weather outlook (April-May-June) favors normal temperatures and normal precipitation for the Kenai Fjords area.
- The 2013 winter extent of the Bering Sea Ice reached the third all-time high coverage since record keeping began in 1979. Read more about it in the latest edition of theAlaska Climate Dispatch.
- Research published in the journal Nature indicates that regions of the Arctic Ocean that were previously inaccessible to ships without icebreaking hulls will be accessible by 2050, opening a new pathway to the spread of invasive species.
- The National Fish, Wildlife, and Plant Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, the first nationwide strategy to help public and private decision makers address the impacts of climate change on natural resources, has been released.
- A new study published in Nature Climate Change reports evidence of climate change-induced vegetation shifts into the northern latitudes of North America “making Canada look more like the United States.”
- A negative phase in the Arctic Oscillation (AO) resulted in warmer temperatures in the Arctic and colder temperatures in the mid-latitudes in March. Learn more about the AO and its influence on temperature patterns at NASA’s Earth Observatory System‘s page.
- New research published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters reports that by the end of the 21st century, 20% of Canada’s glacial ice will melt, adding 3.5 cm to global sea levels.
- NOAA climate services portal serves as a single point-of-entry for NOAA’s extensive climate information, data, products, services, and the climate science magazineClimateWatch.
Read more to find out about the local climate for March 2013
Nichole Feemster thanks the wonderful community folks that signed up and stopped in to help with the panels this last weekend. 18 panels, size 4×8, were given their first, second and sometimes third coats of paint during the paint weekend at the cruise ship terminal. Thank you to the Alaska Railroad and the City of Seward for the space to set up and paint, and the Library Museum volunteers for helping to move, set up and help with the weekend details. Nichole was on site each day to oversee the painting and directing the helping hands. She would like to thank the volunteer painters, some came more than one day, and a *special Thank You to Mary Daniels for soups and baked goods, Yum!
The panels are getting the artists final touch and will then have a top coating applied before they are ready to go up on the white walls of the South side of the Library Museum building. Our helping hands:
|Beegee and Erin Biggs|
|Billy Joe Wardlow|
|Keith and Jackie Campbell|
Environmental Assessment on Herman Leirer Multi-Modal Trail Feasibility Available for Public Comment
An Environmental Assessment (EA) evaluating alternatives for the feasibility of an interagency multi-modal trail along the Herman Leirer Road is now available for public comment. A multi-use trail (bicycle, pedestrian and ski) is being considered along the Herman Leirer Road, starting from the Seward Highway and ending at the Exit Glacier Nature Center in Kenai Fjords National Park. The approximately 8.2 mile trail would pass through public lands and right-of-ways managed by the State of Alaska, United States Forest Service, and National Park Service. No private lands would be involved, but in some areas private lands would be adjacent to the trail corridor. This environmental assessment analyzes the impacts of different trail routing concept alternatives.
The purpose of the project is to increase the recreational opportunities and public safety along Herman Leirer Road. Project goals are to provide increased safety and a more enjoyable recreational experience for both trail users and road users by separating conflicting uses. Project alternatives would create a non-motorized, multi-modal trail along the Herman Leirer Road corridor for use either in short sections or in its entire length.
It is important to note that at this time there is not a funded project to construct any of the proposed alternatives. This EA will serve as a common vision for state, federal, and local agencies as well as organizations to pursue funding for such a project by any number of sources. Funding the entire trail through a single funded project may not be possible and each agency may need to seek funding for their respective segments over a period of several years. The goal of this multi-modal trail which traverses across a variety of public lands and right-of-ways is to offer an outstanding visitor experience while protecting the resources over which each agency has responsibility.
The environmental assessment analyzes a range of one no action alternative and three action alternatives for consideration:
Alternative A – No Action – No designated trail for non-motorized use
No designated trail exists and non-motorized travelers use the paved road or road edge for bicycling, skiing, mushing, and pedestrian travel.
Alternative B – Meandering Separated Trail (Preferred Alternative)
A non-motorized trail would be designed and constructed for use by pedestrians, mountain bikes (bicycles), skiers and mushers. A 10 to 12 foot wide soft surface pathway that meanders farther from the road would be constructed with a number of new trail bridges separated from the road.
Alternative C – Minimum Separation Roadside Trail
A 12 foot wide soft pathway would be added to the north side of Herman Leirer Road (using existing trails when feasible), separated from the road by a 5 foot vegetated buffer. Connections to existing trails would be improved.
Alternative D – No Separation Road Edge Trail and Upgrades to Existing Trails
For most of the length of the corridor, the existing road (currently with 12 foot wide driving lanes and 4 foot paved shoulders) would be reconfigured and restriped to 10 foot driving lanes and 6 foot paved shoulders marked as bicycle lanes. Existing hiking trails would be upgraded to soft surface trails suitable for pedestrians, hikers, off-road cyclists and non-motorized winter uses.
The National Park Service has published a draft EA entitled ” Herman Leirer Multi-Modal Trail Feasibility Study Environmental Assessment.” It is available at http://parkplanning.nps.gov. The EA was completed in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and the regulations of the Council on Environmental Quality (40 CFR 1508.9).
Comments on the EA may be submitted through Friday, June 7, 2013, preferably via the website, http://parkplanning.nps.gov. Comments may also be faxed to (907) 422-0571, or mailed to:
Kenai Fjords National Park
ATTN: Herman Leirer Trail EA
P.O. Box 1727
Seward, AK 99664
Come help paint the Library Museum mural panels today and Sunday at the cruise ship terminal! Snacks and goodies provided by some wonderful volunteers ( thank you Mary Daniels and Mary Huss). Meet Nichole Feemster, the local artist, and help with the completion of the mural panels that will be placed on the South side of the Library Museum.
All supplies are provided, just wear comfortable clothes that can handle a little paint and comfy shoes. Adults and teens welcome. We are offering community service time to all Seward High students that come by complete a time slot. Painting will take place at the cruise ship terminal. Thank you to the Alaska Railroad and the City of Seward for their help with the location to do this community event!
Special thanks to the folks already signed up, public can come and drop in to give a hand anytime, we will be there. A good way to ignore the new snow outside. Or, just stop by to see the work in progress. She has her color drawings out for viewing of the entire project. We’ll have the coffee on!
This is the largest mural to be worked on in Seward and Nichole Feemster has been busy. She needs some extra hands to get the final panels ready.
Saturday, April 6 ~ 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. (drop ins welcome)
Sunday, April 7 ~ 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.- need some hands for clean up and break down @ 2pm!!
Cruise Ship Terminal
By Heidi Zemach
Mark C. Choate, a Juneau attorney with 33 years of experience and a passion for education, will file a lawsuit Friday against the State of Alaska to reclaim School Trust Lands on behalf of all Alaska public schoolchildren, with the help of some committed Seward PTSA board members as plaintiffs. Seward PTSA President Al McCarty told a small gathering at a special meeting Monday April 1st that the landmark lawsuit has the potential to improve school funding throughout Alaska, as similar efforts have done in several other states.
The plaintiffs will ask the Alaska Superior Court Judge in the First Judicial District in Juneau to declare that there have been violations of the trust responsibilities, including a fiduciary duty to protect the land. It also asks the judge to declare a breach in the management of the trust as there’s never been a valuation of theschool trust lands, resources and minerals that are not recoverable, and that there now must be an accounting so the trust can be made whole.
Choate, who has fought several major class-action lawsuits on a pro-bono basis, estimates that the legal part of the case could take 3-5 years. But more difficult and time-consuming will be bringing about the changes that a legal win would help establish. These include creating an independent school trust lands board to manage the fund and assure that the trust lands are being used at its highest fiduciary value; and an independent advisory board to assure that the board is fulfilling its mission.
“We don’t anticipate it being easy, but we anticipate it being successful,” Choate said.
Lynn Hohl, of Seward, an Alaska PTA officer who is also the east peninsula representative on the Kenai Peninsula Board of Education, was surprised to learn in 2004 that an estimated 11 million acres of school-trust lands had been designated throughout Alaska since 1915, to be used in perpetuity for the benefit of funding public schools. Hohl is a former real estate appraiser who was familiar with the Alaska Mental Health and University of Alaska lands trusts, but had never heard of the school trust lands, which were all but forgotten byhistory.
Seward PTSA President McCarty learned of the trust when he became the legislative chair. He later served as the Alaska PTA Legislative Vice President where he lead advocacy efforts in Juneau and Washington DC in support of the public school land trust.
Some 45 million acres of reclaimed children’s trust lands, set aside by the federal government, managed in trusts (worth more than 35 billion) are currently helping to fund schools in states throughout the Lower 48 including Colorado, Utah, Oklahoma, Arizona and Mississippi, according to Children’s Land Alliance Supporting Schools, or “CLASS.” But by 2005, almost half of the original trust lands had “been diverted, squandered, wasted, and shamelessly embezzled,” CLASS said in its educational video.
Choate, who had served 15 years on the Juneau Board of Education, agreed to file a lawsuit at the urging of his persistent friends Al and Lynn, on Alaska children’s behalf. He too believes it wrong that so much time and effort must be spent every year trying to secure funding for public education. With billions of dollars more in state revenues potentially leaving the state’s coffers with the new oil tax reform and tax credit bills, Alaska’s public school boards and PTAs anticipate even tougher school funding battles in the future, he said.
What has happened to the Alaska’s Children’s Trust Land in is complicated, but some background may help.
The idea of establishing trust land for children came with the nation’s founders more than 200 years ago, as an effort to give every township America a place for a public school, and land to help support education. The townships were established through the federal survey system. A township is a square of 6 miles on each side, or 36 square miles total. A section is a mile on each side and contains 640 acres. The federal government promised the public school children of Alaska every Section 16 and 36, including mineral rights, in the Territory of Alaska in federal ownership not already reserved for another use in 1915. There are 508 townships in Alaska, and the state’s total land and water area covers 424,491,520 acres.
In 1959 at Alaska Statehood, the Federal government granted the remainingsurveyed sections 16 and 36 to Alaska for support of the public schools. This grant totaled 105,000 acres, but a great deal of the lands to be set aside are not included in the total, Choate said.
In 1978, the Alaska legislature combined the school lands with other State lands to be managed in unison. To offset the income loss of the land taken, .5% of revenues from all State lands are now deposited into the Public School Trust Fund. In FY 2005 this fund was worth $317 million. Its interest and dividends go to schools via the school foundation program.
Some beneficiaries with lands involved in the consolidation, such as Mental Health and University trust advocates, filed suit and recovered their lands, comparable lands and monetary compensation. The schools did not, however legal action was taken to determine the extent to which schools were harmed. In 1980, an additional 75,000 acres was promised through Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act to make up for land not obtained at Statehood. Selection of the ANILCA lands was completed in 1992.
Kasayulie v. State of Alaska was filed in Anchorage Superior Court in 1997 on behalf of rural western Alaska schools. It charged there was disparity between rural and urban school districts in obtaining reimbursement of school construction costs, and that the state had failed to properly manage the school trust lands and the school trust fund.
On Sept. 1, 1999, Judge John Reese ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on both school facility and school trust issues. His ruling stated, in part: “The Court holds that the State has breached its duties as a trustee of the public school lands.” Judge Reese also ordered an appraisal be made of the trust lands, but to date that has not happened. “This was a huge decision,” Choate said. Unfortunately, he said, the lands trust was a secondary issue, and in 2011, Citizens for the Educational Advance of Alaska’s Children (CEAAC) the group that brought the lawsuit, accepted a settlement for their facilities and “walked away” from taking the land trust outcomes any further.
The judge’s ruling created some important legal precedents that will help lay the legal groundwork for Choates’ new case. He feels confident about its chances because so much was already determined by the Kasayulie ruling, and because all of the other states’ children’s land trust cases have all been won in favor of the beneficiaries, public school children.
The plaintiffs in the new lawsuit ask the judge to declare that all public school lands should be managed, and this time to assure that the children’s trust is gaining the full potential from the value of the land, and also that natural resources, including sub-surface minerals are received and retained for the trust. If the public hunts, camps, or fishes on the land, the state could require they pay fees for its use, for example. Or if a private business is, or has been drilling or mining on the land, it would be required to pay extraction fees to the trust. With the amount of trust land and natural resources extracted, “the potential’s phenomenal,” McCarty said.
The best idea, he said, is to establish an independent trust board, separate from the state to assure that the trust is not managed according to the political whim of whoever is in power at the time, and that the trust fund is not raided by the state for its own preferred funding purposes.Board members also would not be political appointees, but would be carefully selected for their areas of expertise, such as in managing fishing, mining, recreation, or timber lands. An independent advocacy group would be created to assure that the board is fulfilling its mission.
PTA had earlier asked Choate to file a friend of the court brief on the trust lands issue while the Kasayulie case was underway, Hohl said. But after the plaintiffs settled, and after eight years of lobbying state administrators and lawmakers proved fruitless, they decided to follow the lead of the Mental Health and University Trust folks, and bring the Children’s Trust issue into court.
A Promise to Keep: The Alaska Public School Trust Fund Abstract May 2005
Come help paint the Library Museum mural panels April 5, 6 & 7. Meet Nichole Feemster, the local artist, and help with the completion of the mural panels that will be placed on the South side of the Library Museum.
All supplies are provided, just wear comfortable clothes that can handle a little paint and comfy shoes. Adults and teens welcome. We are offering community service time to all Seward High students that sign up and complete a time slot. Painting will take place at the cruise ship terminal. Thank you to the Alaska Railroad and the City of Seward for their help with the location to do this community event!
Sign up in person at the Library Museum or call 907-224-3646 and give your name, email and a phone contact.
Friday, April 5 ~ 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Saturday, April 6 ~ 10 a.m.-2 p.m. or 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.***
Sunday, April 7 ~ 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.***
***Need folks for these slots!!
The Library Museum Volunteers
(This press release from Sen. Begich’s office might be of interest locally as we are a growing Alaska port, experiencing increasing shipping activities):
Dramatically increased shipping traffic in the Arctic along with offshore oil and gas development require enhanced Coast Guard equipment, international shipping standards and new port facilities to service all that activity, seven federal and private sector experts told U.S. Senator Mark Begich yesterday during a Senate field hearing in Anchorage.
Representatives from the Coast Guard, Shell Alaska, Bering Straits Native Corporation (BSNC) and others testified about maritime activity and development in the Arctic before the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, which Begich chairs.
“Those who testified today shared a common concern—the dramatic increase in shipping activity in the Arctic Ocean and the Bering Strait,” said Sen. Begich. “Many people don’t realize that more than 500 ships passed through those waters last year. Many of the vessels were from countries that don’t abide by the same safety and environmental standards we do and that’s a real problem.” “It’s our duty to ensure that our Coast Guard is equipped and prepared for increased development in the Arctic”
With the additional traffic, Arctic shipping issues need to be addressed. The Coast Guard testified that many federal agencies had ‘gang-tackled’ the issue of oil and gas drilling safety paying less attention to maritime shipping, the more likely cause of a spill.
“It’s clear to me that maritime traffic and resource development are growing in the Arctic,” said Sen. Begich. “We need to get ahead of the game now so that the people of Alaska can benefit from the resource development, the jobs that will result, and the potential for revenue-sharing. With that vision in mind, it is our duty to ensure that agencies like the Coast Guard and NOAA are equipped to do the work ahead of them.”
On Wednesday, March 27 between 9:45 AM and 10:15 AM you
may hear tsunami sirens and, if you are watching TV or
listening to the radio, you may hear or see a message that a
tsunami warning has been issued for all of Alaska. However,
it’s just a test to make sure that the tsunami warning system
works from one end to the other. So tell your friends and
- • It’s not a real emergency
- • Do not evacuate your home
- • Do not call 911
In short, on March 27, Chill, it’s a Drill!
Presented by the National Weather Service and Alaska’s
Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, in
cooperation with the Alaska Broadcasters Association
On Oct. 24, 2012, Spring Creek Correctional Center officer Kim Spalding was pinned and beaten around the head and body for about 50 seconds before managing to wield a pocketknife he had on his person. After Spalding stabbed two of the inmates repeatedly, the attackers relented and ceased the assault. Spalding, who had a previous 15 year career as a police officer, had been working at SCCC for 5.5 years. Wolfgang Kurtz wrote about the attack, and Spalding’s subsequent firing in the March 21, 2013 Seward Phoenix Log. Questions remain After SCCC Attack:
Note: Seward City News had attempted to bring you the true story at the time. We had seen SPD entries in its daily journal of calls referring to “Multiple stab victims” at Spring Creek, and the need for a couple of ambulances on scene. But the press release that the Department of Corrections issued only said that a corrections officer had been attacked, and neither DOC, nor the Alaska State Troopers, who were investigating would provide additional information. (HZ)
Little book about a young Beluga whale, named Betsy
This short & simple story is intended for people of all ages to introduce them to the Belugas of Cook Inlet.
Hopefully, it brings a smile to your face. You are able to view the entire book online either by clicking on the “read sample” or “preview” button.
There are some free Betsy Beluga coloring pages on the Whittier visitor guide website. Go to the www.WhittierAlaska.info site and look for Betsy Beluga.
To preview the book go to:
Seward Town Hall Meeting
Saturday, March 23rd
4 pm – 6 pm
Representative Mike Chenault
Speaker of the House
Please join in the discussion at a
town hall meeting with your
local state representative on
Saturday, March 23rd, from 4 pm to 6 pm
at the Seward Library Museum located at 239 6th Ave.
If you have questions call the Kenai office at 283-7223.
The Alaska Senate decided Wednesday evening to reduce taxes for oil companies in the hope that they’ll pump the remaining oil faster. After a contentious and lengthy day of debating the matter, the Senate passed billions of dollars in tax cuts by an 11-9 vote.
Before voting to pass the tax cut, the Senate’s Republican majority voted down a dozen amendments by Senate Democrats, and Republican Gary Stevens, and passed one aimed at limiting the impact of the cuts.
Our own District N Senate Representative Cathy Giessel, R- Anchorage, was an enthusiastic supporter of the bill.
“You know this bill, SB 21 is very innovative in covering all those aspects that Alaska needs, and that is more production, Giessel said in a press conference following the vote. “We want to incentivize new oil, and you can only get the gross revenue exclusion, the GRE on oil that is produced. Actually with senate bill 21 we take a slightly lower take than ACES does, but it’s not prohibitively high.”
“It’s a risk, a gamble, a crap shoot. But to do nothing is an even bigger risk,” added Republican Senator Kevin Meyer.
Republican Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak (who used to represent the Seward area prior to redistricting) tried to amend the bill to include a three-year sunset provision in order to encourage lawmakers to re-examine the effects of the bill and whether it was working as planned. That amendment was soundly rejected after Giessel and some fellow lawmakers said that would lead to uncertainty for the oil companies, who plan projects many years in advance.
Democrats supported adding “progressivity,” another failed amendment, as a way of letting Alaska’s residents share in prospective windfall oil company profits at a time when high oil prices would be hurting Alaskan families.
Prudhoe Bay and Kuparuk, the North Slope’s second biggest field, didn’t need the cuts, as the legacy fields were “extremely profitable any way you want to measure them,” said Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka. An amendment to apply the tax reductions only to new projects failed however, with a wide republican-majority vote margin opposing it.
Senate Minority leader Johnny Ellis, D-Anchorage, questioned making such a large tax cut for oil companies that have said they were unwilling to commit to investing some of that return into new oil production from the North Slope.
“Not a single one says ‘Yes, there’ll be more oil in the pipeline if you pass this bill,’” he said.
Along with the new base rate, up from the current 25 percent (under ACES), SB 21 also eliminates existing capital expenditure credits, eliminates progressivity, adds incentives for new oil, and adds a $5 per barrel tax allowance.
After a reconsideration vote today, the bill goes to the House for approval there.
Heidi Zemach for Seward City News
Former Alaska Governor Bill Sheffield has been traveling across South Central speaking persuasively in support of the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation’s proposed 737-mile “bullet” pipeline that would carry natural gas from the North Slope to Point MacKenzie. It would have multiple take-off points in cities and communities along the way. Sheffield was the featured speaker at the Seward Chamber of Commerce’s business luncheon last Friday as part of a host of speaking engagements that he says are all on his own dime.
“I got into this because we’ve been talking about this thing for the last 30-40 years,” he said. But Alaska hasn’t kept up with its own pipeline infrastructure, he said. “It’s time we started doing something for us, and gas is the answer.”
Sheffield, who served as governor from 1982-86, is well respected by many in the Seward audience for bringing projects—such as the Spring Creek Correctional Center —our way. He also sits on the Alaska Railroad Corporation Board of Directors, and keeps a sport fishing boat in the Seward Small Boat Harbor.
The pipeline is a proposal that its backers say could help supplement Cook Inlet’s dwindling supply of natural gas production in as little as seven years, and provide supplies for electric generation and home heating for the next 100 years. It would carry up to 500 million cubic feet per day of natural gas at a pressure of 1,480 pounds per square-inch, according to Leslye Langla, a spokesperson for AGDC, who visited Seward’s Port & Commerce Advisory Board February 26th to promote the concept.
The proposed 737 mile-long pipeline is one of two natural gas pipeline projects under way, each vying for funding, and the continued support of the state legislature. It would be buried for the majority of the way. The pipeline would require more than 337,000 tons of steel, which could potentially be shipped to the port of Seward, according to AGDC, which will be looking for a year-round, ice-free port with a friendly environment. The pipeline’s construction would bring about an estimated 8,000 new jobs for Alaskans, some of who could be trained at programs offered here at AVTEC, Langla said.
Sheffield gave some even more positive scenarios of the ripple effect such a pipeline might have on the economy:
The relatively cheaper natural gas could help fend off the escalating price of LNG fuel, which it looks as though it will need to be imported to Alaska in the coming years, Sheffield said. As gas production in Cook Inlet has diminished, its price has increased. Higher prices caused the Agrium plant, one of the biggest commercial users of natural gas in Southcentral, to close down in 2007. Dwindling supplies have also slowed liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports to the point where the LNG export facility in Kenai is on the verge of being closed. When Agrium closed, 300-350 jobs were lost, Sheffield said. They were “good jobs,” paying around $80 thousand a year in wages.
“I imagine if we had cheap gas, (Agrium’s owners) would come back from Canada and it would be reopened,” Sheffield said.
With a more plentiful supply of gas, business at Flint Hills Resources’ North Pole Refinery, which processes North Slope crude oil and supplies gasoline, jet fuel, heating oil, diesel, gas oil and asphault to Alaska markets, would return, Sheffield predicted. Flint Hills has three stacks, but is only operating one stack currently, which contributed to the decline in Alaska Railroad traffic and its need to lay off workers.
“If you can get natural gas to the proposed Donlin Gold mine, Donlin will employ 3,000 people to build the mine, and will employ 1,500 workers there a day,” Sheffield said.
Vocational schools like AVTEC will have a big job keeping up with the demand of training people, he added, predicting that Alaska could have full employment if done right.
As the former governor is not being paid by AGDC, or anyone else in industry to speak on behalf of the pipeline, or House Bill 4 the measure that would fund the remaining $327 million for the $400 million pipe line, there are no limitations on what he can or can’t say, he said. But AGDC needs Alaska statesmen like Sheffield on their side, as the other pipeline project backers include the City of Valdez, and former Valdez Mayor Bill Walker, General Counsel and Project Manager for the Alaska Gasline Port Authority. They support the MVP, or maximum volume pipeline, a large-volume gas line from the North Slope to tidewater, and are opposing the AGDC instate pipeline with a costly and pervasive media ad campaign. Their plan is an 800-mile, 48-inch-diameter high-pressure pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to tidewater in Southcentral Alaska, and meanwhile importing alternative supplies such as LNG, and financing a trucking project from the North Slope to Fairbanks. They claim that the proposed AGDC pipeline leaves out half of all Alaskans, and that their own project can be built significantly faster and cheaper than the ASAP line can, and will give them the flexibility to continue pursuing the “correct project for Alaska” providing cheap energy for all Alaskans; and a steady stream of income to help offset declining oil revenues.
Sheffield doesn’t think the ambitious MVP project is the solution, and that therefore AGDC’s natural gas pipeline should be ditched. “Let me tell you why,” he said. “They’re behind.” AGDC has already done a tremendous amount of work with its first $71 million state payment, he said. Its staff have already obtained all the needed state rights-of-way and state land permits, and is awaiting award of federal land permits in the near future. They’ve already done the pipeline engineering too.
The MVP project will cost an estimated $7.7 billion to build, however, Sheffield said. They have not done an Environmental Impact Statement for their pipeline, nor obtained right of way permits. There’s been no engineering done, and unlike the instate pipeline, the fuel it supplies would still have to be further refined.
“And I don’t give a hoot if we ever sell an ounce of gas to Asia from that state pipeline,” Sheffield exclaimed. “I’m just saying we need to stick with the instate gas line. Gas is for Alaska, and oil is for the state budget.”
The state still has plenty of money hidden away in one account or another that can be used to fund the remainder of the pipeline project, he said. But AGDC won’t get there, without wasting time and millions more each year, unless lawmakers pass HB4 this session in order to get the project into “Open Season” by the end of 2014. That’s when the corporation negotiates directly with interested oil companies for a guaranteed supply of gas at a set price over a guaranteed period of time.
The Seward City Council has endorsed HB4.