In-State Natural Gas Pipeline Seeks to Temporarily Use Denali Borough Lands

Reprinted from the September-October Denali Citizens Council News (with links to more information):

The Alaska Gasline Development Corporation (AGDC) discussed their Alaska Stand-Alone Pipeline (ASAP) plans for the Denali Borough at a Planning Commission meeting September 20th.   AGDC hopes to begin geotechnical studies to “evaluate the feasibility” of burying the natural gas pipeline on Borough-owned lands southeast of the Nenana Canyon.  To do so, they have applied for a “Temporary Land-Use Permit” to drill two, seventy-foot-deep boreholes.  These boreholes would be used to help AGDC determine how, or whether, they could bury the proposed pipeline in this area.  Permit documents were available for review at the meeting, and the Planning Commission passed a resolution of support.  The Mayor approves the permit, as use of the land is less than one year.  A statewide right-of-way (ROW) application was approved in August, the first in a series of permits that will be necessary for the project.  While much of this ROW uses existing state highway and railroad corridors (and is mandated by founding legislation to try to do so), the pipeline detours away from the Parks Highway to avoid a seven-mile stretch of the highway that passes through Denali National Park.  This bypass of the park travels through Borough land before connecting with the Willow-Healy Intertie ROW (a major energy transmission line), and then rejoining the highway around Carlo Creek. AGDC will work separately with private property owners, Native Corporations, Borough governments, etc. to establish easements traveling through private property.

An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is anticipated in the next several months, a few months behind initial timelines.  This document will identify potential impacts of the project, and provide an opportunity for public comment on topics such as safety, environmental concerns, and routing options.  It will likely consider different routes around and through Denali National Park.  Many questions have been raised about which option, if any, would be best for the area.  Some feel that aligning the pipeline with the existing highway corridor would be better than traveling through state lands that a detour would include, such as the Yanert River Valley.  Federal legislation introduced by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, and supported by Senator Mark Begich would allow the National Park Service to allow for a ROW that travels through the park.  According to a press release by Senator Begich’s office and the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the National Park Service and NPCA are both in support of this federal legislation.   The Northern Alaska Environmental Center expressed concerns during the right-of-way permitting process about potential impacts in and around Denali, and pointed out that the EIS process should have been done before a right-of-way permit was considered.  Other comments pointed out safety issues, including proximity of the pipeline to the Denali Fault, and to local residences.

 

Links:

Northern Alaska Environmental Center comments on state Right-of-Way application

KTNA coverage of Alaska Gasline Development Corporation meeting in Talkeetna: http://ktna.org/2011/09/20/alaska-stand-alone-pipeline-update/

Alaska Dispatch coverage of Alaska Stand Alone Pipeline development: http://www.alaskadispatch.com/search/results/asap%20pipeline?solrsort=created%20desc

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