Gov. Sean Parnell says an agreement has been signed that allows for the next stage in pursuing a major liquefied natural gas project.
Parnell says environmental field work and pipeline engineering have begun as part of a phase in which the parties are expected to spend hundreds of millions of dollars.
There’s still no guarantee the mega-project will be built, but Parnell called the agreement and work underway a mark of significant progress.
The parties involved are BP, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil Corp., TransCanada Corp., and the Alaska Gasline Development Corp.
ConocoPhillips was previously a holdout to signing because of issues the company said were confidential. A spokeswoman said those issues have been resolved.
Parnell said the project, in the coming weeks, will work to begin the process of securing an export license.
A U.S. Senator from Missouri is continuing her crackdown on the advantages Alaska Native Corporations enjoy in government contracting.
Sen. Claire McCaskill this week pressed the Small Business Administration to show that rules in place since 2011 are tightening requirements on ANCs and producing better oversight.
Since the 1980s, ANCs have won government contracts worth billions of dollars, through a program designed to allow small, minority-owned companies to contract for government work without competition. Other businesses in the program are limited to contracts of up to $4 million. Alaska Native corporations, though, can get sole-source contracts of any size, and they can work in joint venture with non-Native companies as long as the ANC owns 51%.
McCaskill has previously sponsored bills to remove those special advantages. She’s asking the SBA for a list of all such joint ventures since 2011, and for reports showing how Native communities benefitted from these contracts.
Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, in a press release, says he’s tried to reason with McCaskill, a fellow Democrat. But he says she doesn’t understand Alaska history. He says ANCs shouldn’t be punished for their success.
Rain continues to fall across the central and eastern interior as July extends a trend that made June Fairbanks rainiest on record.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Scott Berg is tracking precipitation totals.
“Just the first day of July we had 1.92 inches of rainfall, and that was a new record for that date, and it was almost three times what the previous record was. Since midnight last night we’ve picked up a bit more. So far this month we’ve had 2.73 inches of rain,” he said.
Berg says that puts Fairbanks well on its way to above normal rainfall in July.
“Our normals for July are around 5 inches, so we’re about halfway there already,” he said.
More rain is forecast for the first half of today. Berg says a band of rain over the area is expected to move off to the northeast this afternoon.
“By midafternoon we should be seeing just some scattered showers around the area, and by evening maybe some isolated showers, but for the most part the rain will be done by 5 or 6 o’clock this evening,” he said.
While the rain is expected to stop, Berg says area rivers will continue to rise, elevating flood potential.
“We do look for most of them to start peaking by tomorrow sometime, or even into Friday. Once the river forecast folks from Anchorage arrive we’ll get some new model guidance from them as to where [the rivers] are actually going to start peaking. But they are a little bit ahead of where we were forecasting them to be yesterday,” he said.
The Army Corps of Engineers sent out message last night saying they anticipated lowering gates on the Moose Creek Dam at the Chena Flood Control project late today or Thursday.
A Flood warning is in effect for the Upper Chena, Salcha, Goodpaster Rivers and the Eastern Alaska Range. Flood Advisories have been issued for the Alaska Range, east of the Parks Highway, and the Birch Creek Basin north of Fairbanks. There’s a Flood Watch for the Tanana River between the communities of Salcha and Tanana.
Berg says the high water will coincide with more summer like weather over the 4th of July weekend.
“Drying conditions, thank goodness. We will see the temperatures come up a little bit, into the 70′s and possibly into the 80′s for the weekend,” he said.
Berg says there will be chance of afternoon thunderstorms through the weekend.
The rain is resulting in dangerous driving conditions. State Department of Transportation Northern Region spokeswoman Meadow Bailey says she issued numerous travel advisories this morning.
“For just about every road in the interior, reminding people or warning people that there are obviously extremely wet surfaces and a lot of people are experiencing hydroplaning. So just like in the winter, people need to reduce their speed and make sure that they are allowing extra time to reach their destination. This is not the kind of weather to be speeding around,” she said.
Bailey says the third major rain event in as many weeks rains is resulting in road damage.
“We’re seeing all kinds of pot holes and just degradation of the sides of the road. So areas where we’re kind of having some erosion and water is actually eating away sections of the road,” she said.
Bailey says DOT crews are driving area roads 24 hours a day making emergency repairs. She says temporary repairs are also being made to the damage caused to the Denali Park Road last week by rain swollen creeks near the road’s end at mile 92.
“We have a crew that is working in Kantishna and actually our maintenance crew is going there to look at what longer term repairs will need to be made today. So they’re going to bring back pictures and a more extensive report from that area,” she said.
The emergency repair work comes amidst numerous summer road construction and resurfacing projects the wet weather is hampering progress on.
The largest king salmon run in Bristol Bay has reached the lower end of the escapement goal but the managers with Fish and Game are hoping for more.
As severe restrictions on Chinooks continue to hit subsistence users, early signs of strong chum runs are leading the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to announce some unanticipated commercial openings.
“What is happening is this year we’re have an early, strong chum salmon run in most areas of Norton Sound,” said Scott Kent, ADF&G biologist for the Nome area. “It’s front-loaded in that, it’s hitting hard right now, and then it’s probably going to drop off here considerably in a week or so.”
Kent said that means this next few days in the region are going to be fruitful for fishermen. “We’re going to probably start seeing a lot of fish passage this week and into the weekend.”
Kent said the region is seeing some of the best chum counts on record for this time of year. At the Kwiniuk tower on the North side of Norton Sound, for example, 12,000 chums have already been counted, making this year one of the best runs in the station’s 49 years of operation.
Kent said the strong chum run is especially good news considering the poor pre-season forecasts.
“We were not expected directed openings in Golovin and Elim this year, especially not this early,” he laughed. “So, it’s a pleasant surprise.”
The Norton Sound isn’t the only region in western Alaska seeing strong chum numbers. A three-hour opening Saturday, June 28 lifted gear restrictions in the Lower Yukon and gave some families a much-needed chance to put up chum on their racks.
“Everybody’s real happy for the Y1 and Y2 three-hour six-inch gillnet opening that you guys had,” said Basil Larson from Russian Mission during a weekly Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association teleconference on Tuesday.
Not everyone was able to take advantange of the opening, Larson said, but those who could made it count. “There’s not a lot of families that could afford to go down and go fish for those three hours, but the families that did go down, I talked to them and they are all done with their summer chum subsistence harvest.”
Callers further upriver on the Yukon, like Janet Woods in Rampart, said they are frustrated at having to wait until nearly all the Chinooks have passed just to have a shot at fishing for chums.
“We’ve been waiting and waiting. We can’t even so much put in a net. If you let people fish even one day, that would eliminate all these problems with people getting caught, and getting their fish nets taken away, and having to go to court and pay,” Woods said. “We need to have our fish—that’s what sustains us.”
Fish and Game representatives on the call explained that upriver communities can expect a similar subsistence opening once 90 percent of the Chinook have passed. Which, based on past years, is likely to be some time around July 18.
Kent said that, while the Chinook restrictions have been severe, they do appear to be working.
“The King run is very poor,” he stressed, “but it’s not as dire as we thought it was going to be going into the season. In other words, we think we’ve got a good chance of making our escapement goals because we’ve taken such severe restrictions.”
While making escapement into Canada is an important goal to hit, Kent stressed the run is still significantly below historical levels.
“It doesn’t mean it’s a good run, it doesn’t mean we should pat ourselves on the back yet. But it appears the measures taken across the region are working to conserve Chinook salmon.”
For a full list of ADF&G’s salmon openings in the Norton Sound area can be found on their website.