• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
3m 20s

As costs increase, port problems persist

By Emily Carlson 10:52 AM December 11, 2013

Multi-million dollar "boondoggle" involves more than 90 percent of goods in Alaska

ANCHORAGE – It’s a mega-sized boondoggle that could affect the price of almost everything you buy in Alaska.

The Port of Anchorage expansion project began more than a decade ago. Since then, the cost to taxpayers has more than quadrupled. Much of the work already done must be replaced. Right now, work is at a standstill, but with every day that goes by, costs increase.

The port — the place that takes in almost everything Alaskans eat and use on a daily basis — continues to rust with age and worry the people who work there.

Katrina Anderson grew up on the water of Cook Inlet. Today, she cruises the water as a tugboat captain.

“We’re really small, but we’re all the guts and power and glory,” she said.

She said chances are whatever food you buy at the grocery store started its journey at the port.

Ninety percent of the things you buy on a daily basis get here by boat. But the place they come in is old, rusting and in disrepair. Fifty-three years of wear and tear are taking their toll on the port complex.

“The Port of Anchorage has kind of lived its life span, it’s in need of repair,” Anderson said. “The old part of the dock definitely needs to be replaced.”

Twelve years ago, the Municipality of Anchorage started with a simple plan: Replace the old parts with new parts.

The price tag? $85 million.

But that simple remodel took a wild turn when former Alaska Gov. Bill Sheffield took the wheel. Sheffield’s grand plan would be the biggest public works project in state history.

His scheme started with building 135 acres of land out into Cook Inlet, more than tripling the size of the current port.

Sheffield claimed the expansion would bring billions of dollars in new business into Alaska; adding room for shippers, the military, Coast Guard and cruise ships.

The plan for economic growth would cost $146 million dollars and provide more jobs, money and tourism.

“Build it and they will come,” said Cook Inletkeeper Bob Shavelson. “You wave your wand over it, you have these prospects, there’s going to be all these jobs and increased revenues … lot of people get starry-eyed and they get lost.”

Shavelson said he’s been speaking out against the grand expansion plan for years. The problem was, nobody would listen.

“We did everything we could to elevate what we considered were relevant facts and science, and those just got brushed under the rug and politics took over ,” he said.

Shavelson said what happened at the port is a glaring example of government wasting taxpayer money, and some municipal officials couldn’t agree more.

“It’s some of the things that make taxpayers shake their head and say, ‘There’s government at work,’ and it’s in a negative connotation,” said Anchorage Assemblyman Paul Honeman.

Taxpayers should be angry, Honeman said. He said the grand idea pitched by port officials is a flop.

“It didn’t happen and as a result we got a boondoggle,” he said.

Twelve years after it began, the port expansion project is just 30 percent complete. Meanwhile, more than $300 million has been dumped into construction.

A construction and engineering firm was recently brought in to find out what went wrong, and called the expansion work “majorly defective,” “deficient” and “not up to standards.” 

So what happened, and who is at fault?

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong,” Sheffield said. “You gotta have a contractor that can install it properly.”

Is it the United States Maritime Administration — the federal agency leading the project — or perhaps PNC Engineering and their design?

For people like Anderson, who make their livelihood on the water at the port, blame is a touchy topic.

Anderson said all she wants is for Alaska’s most important man-made resource to be safe and durable.

“Whatever means that has to take,” she said. “It’s just really important for the infrastructure of Alaska that we maintain our lifeline.”

Latest Stories

  • News

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosts VIP event at Anchorage Museum

    by Daniella Rivera on Aug 31, 0:58

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Alaska Sunday afternoon to host a VIP event at the Anchorage Museum. The event was to kick off the GLACIER Conference and welcome dignitaries from across the globe who have traveled to Alaska, many for the first time. It was a moment for Alaska to make a […]

  • News

    UPDATE: Horseshoe Lake Fire reaches 25 acres

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Aug 30, 15:51

    Crews are working to contain a fire, located off Millers Reach Road north of Big Lake. Early Sunday afternoon, authorities were alerted to the fire. Named the Horshoe Lake Fire, it has reached about 25 acres, as of 8 p.m. Sunday. Both helicopters and ground crews are assisting in the containment efforts, according to Norm […]

  • Crime

    Man stabbed in face after altercation in downtown Anchorage

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Aug 30, 15:05

    Police say a young adult male suffered a severe stab wound to his face early Sunday morning after an altercation in downtown Anchorage. Around 2:40 a.m. the Anchorage Police Department received a report of a possible stabbing near Seventh Avenue and D Street. It was reported to police that a group of males got into a […]

  • News

    President Obama to announce renaming of Mount McKinley to Denali

    by Sierra Starks on Aug 30, 13:01

    During his trip to Alaska, President Barack Obama will announce that the federal government has officially restored the name of Denali to the mountain previously known as Mount McKinley. “Today, finalizing a process initiated by the State of Alaska in 1975, President Obama is announcing that the Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell used her […]

  • Lifestyle

    1st weekend of Alaska State Fair kicks off with parade

    by Eric Ruble on Aug 30, 11:52

    The first weekend of the Alaska State Fair kicked off with a parade in downtown Palmer. Forty-five different floats traveled down South Alaska Street, each stopping for 30 seconds at the grandstand to be judged by a panel. Groups from around Southcentral Alaska created their own unique floats that were dispersed between tractors and dozens […]

  • Crime

    Man charged in East Anchorage double homicide

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Aug 30, 10:37

    Anchorage police have arrested and charged a man in a double homicide that occurred in January. Michael Dorell Kelvin Reynold, 22, was taken into custody on Saturday in connection with the shooting deaths of 27-year-old Christian Haynes and 23-year-old Krystal Hawk, according to a release from the Anchorage Police Department. Haynes and Hawk, a couple, were […]

  • News

    Dillingham plans to voice erosion concerns during President Obama’s visit

    by Emily Carlson on Aug 29, 18:50

    When Dillingham residents are asked what their land means to them, the answer is simple — it’s home. Many fear that, due to erosion, they will not only lose their land but also the culture that’s been built upon those shores.

  • News

    Gov. Walker to fly with President Obama to Alaska

    by Associated Press on Aug 29, 13:15

    Gov. Bill Walker will fly to Alaska with President Barack Obama on Monday. Walker’s office announced in a release Saturday that Walker will accompany the president aboard Air Force One from Washington, D.C. The president will address a State Department global warming conference Monday afternoon in Anchorage. He also has visits planned in Seward, Dillingham […]