No news on Alaska port study until after election
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A major study on the troubled Anchorage port project won’t be available to the public until three days after next month’s election, even though the ballot will include an initiative that asks voters to support more funding for the project, a newspaper reported yesterday.
The initiative seeks approval for a $453 million statewide transportation bond that includes $50 million for the port.
Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan has been briefed on the $2 million study by engineering firm CH2M Hill but won’t answer questions because of a signed confidentiality agreement sought by the Maritime Administration, the lead agency on the project. MARAD is paying for the study.
The Anchorage Assembly is scheduled to be briefed on the project three days after the Nov. 6 election.
The city, the port and MARAD need time to “edit, correct, comment and amend before the public briefing,” city spokeswoman Lindsey Whitt said in an email to the Anchorage Daily News.
“The public has a right to know what they are voting on,” said Bob Shavelson, advocacy director for Cook Inletkeeper, an environmental watchdog group. “When you’re talking about public money and something as important as the Port of Anchorage, it should be a public, open, transparent process.”
The Nov. 9 meeting will be open to the public, but the public won’t be able to testify.
A key issue in the troubled port expansion is the design itself, using giant vertical sheets of steel driven into the Inlet floor to hold backfill and create new land.
Construction was halted in 2009 when inspections revealed a number of steel sheets already installed had bent and jammed together in some spots and split apart in others.
Three construction seasons have passed with little new work on the project in which about $300 million already has been spent.
The city doesn’t expect to release the actual study until mid-December, Whitt said.