Anchorage Assembly moves Port of Alaska plans forward

Anchorage Assembly moves Port of Alaska plans forward
Published: Jul. 26, 2023 at 10:04 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage Assembly is working on yet another packed agenda, including multiple ordinances related to the Port of Alaska.

Containers ships, marine vessels, and cruise ships all call the Port of Alaska home, but the two cargo terminals there are starting to show their age, and Tuesday night, the Assembly took a step toward addressing that by voting to improve tariff revisions and design concepts for the port.

A draft ordinance showed the design concept for the two cargo terminals that receive shipments from commercial cargo vessels will be created for a 75-year life span. The changes will also take into consideration the needs of current vessels that use the Port of Alaska, along with larger vessels that may use it in the future.

“I mentioned we built it in the 50s to those standards,” Port of Alaska Director Stephen Ribuffo said. “The shipping industry and the maritime industry has grown over the last six decades. We are very far behind in times and we have to catch up.”

The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday considered a flurry of amendments to the design concept, but approved one ordinance introduced by Assembly member Meg Zalatel, stating the designs shall be consistent with the intermediate design and the design advisory board’s recommendations to allow the Assembly to compare cost.

Per the ordinance, “for the purposes of the designs of terminal one and terminal two, the designer of record in collaboration with the Port of Alaska shall identify the design elements necessary for Port of Alaska operations and distinguish them for those not necessary for port operations, but desired by user or user group, including the cost associated with such elements.”

The amendment also requires that terminal one should include the same seismic criteria as terminal two, with a maximum dock width of 120 feet, consistent with the federal permit application.

Mayor Dave Bronson expressed concern that Zalatel’s changes would delay the project and add future cost.

“(It’s) desired by our user or user group — we are giving them influence in this language be either terminal one and terminal two,” Bronson said. “We don’t want to be there. We design the port for what is best for the citizens. Not some transitory operator.”

The amendment was approved in the end.

Another item of consideration was a draft ordinance relating to tariffs, which would create a surcharge fee based on tonnage for cement and cargo, and a per-barrel charge for petroleum products across the Port of Alaska.

An amendment was also introduced and approved for this item which stated that the Municipality of Anchorage has not currently specified planned use for the revenue bonds with the tariff surcharge, beyond the requirement to utilize the bonds to finance future expenditures for one or more phases of the Port of Alaskan Modernization Project (PAMP). (04.10.12)

Additionally, all funds collected in excess of revenue bonds issued utilizing revenue the terminal tariff are exclusively for the use on Assembly-approved port modernization-related expenditures and shall not be expended for any other purpose. (04.10.12)

“This is why we are stuck in conversations like this, because we don’t have ... a capital fund to go to because we don’t fund depreciation,” Ribuffo said.

The amendment faced very little resistance in the meeting.

The Assembly debated both items for over an hour but eventually passed both ordinances with amendments, saying they feel they are one step closer to modernizing the Port of Alaska for generations to come.