Inside/Outside morning news roundup for 11.7

  • The brains behind the success of a Republican U.S. Senate told CNN that he wanted to thank Democrats for “sidelining their best messenger [President Obama].” Because the Democratic strategy focused on independents, the base was forgotten, left behind and in turn the Democratic candidates were left behind.  The Washington Post details losses with a spiffy color-coded chart (Alaska has been added to the chart with Dan Sullivan named, though it was acknowledged that the race hasn’t officially been called). To add further salt to the Democratic leadership’s wounds, the New York Times reports that the states that most benefited from ACA elected Republicans.
  • The Begich campaign received some much needed support to hold off on a concession speech from the First Alaskans Institute. The group issued a release yesterday urging a wait until all the votes are counted. While this election is pretty well determined, nobody wants to anger the Native establishment since the wounds from the Murkowski write-in debacle are still fresh.
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered her grim election post-mortem in a phone call yesterday. The Hill’ s anonymous source was on the 75 minute call. The message: it was a “terrible year” due to low voter participation, but that next year was going to be focused on expanding the party’s membership.
  • The cats have been herded, power plays fought and lost. Alaska: meet the old boss, same as the new boss in the new state House Leadership ,with a few new faces.
  • The Democratic Party didn’t just lose control of the U.S. Senate and even more seats in Congress; they lost virtually every rising star for future offices across the country. Politico explains what this “lost generation” means to the Democratic Party’s future.
  • Jack Wenner of Haines fame has an op/ed in today’s Juneau Empire defending not only “The Road,” but also explaining why Haines supports the road to be built on the west side of Lynn Canal over the east side selected by then Gov. Tony Knowles in 2000.

  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is not wallowing in self-pity. In fact, Reid is planning on maximizing every last moment he has in power to go out with a bang. The Hill reports that not only does he intend to get 50 of President Obama’s nominees confirmed, but also move an omnibus spending bill.
  • The Dispatch reports that the annual Alaska mining conference centered on Pebble Mine and Mount Polley. Not familiar with Mount Polley? The stories from Wikipedia & the Vancouver Sun might help.
  • The L.A. Times has a piece on our ongoing gubernatorial race.
  • Somebody’s got some “splainin’ to do” over at the AK Department of Environmental Conservation and their hobbled together update to address Fairbanks’ wintertime air pollution. Assemblyman Karl Kassel told the Fairbanks News Miner, that he’s “frustrated,” that the report was due eight month ago, and what they have is generic, sketchy and lacking definitive comments on regulation.
  • Good news! Brooks Range Petroleum will begin drilling in 2015 for new production wells in the Mustang oil field of the North Slope. The Alaska Journal reports that Mustang “is expected to produce about 9K barrels per day or b/d, in 2016 with that increasing to about 12K b/d in 2017” due to a joint venture by AIDEA.
  • Becky Bohrer with the AP reports that the U.S. District Court Judge H. Russel Holland “doesn’t understand why a decision hasn’t been made on whether the state and federal governments would pursue additional damages” regarding the Exxon Valdez case. He ordered a status report for March 16, three months earlier than when Gov. Sean Parnell proposed.
  • It looks like marriage equality will be heading to the Supreme Court after a federal appeals court upheld four states’ (Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee) anti-gay marriage laws, according to the Huffington Post. What the potential repercussions are for Alaska is explained by the Alaska Commons.
  • For those that are upset with how Tuesday unfolded, tomorrow is another day and Shake it Off (with spandex).

Contact Amanda Coyne at


15 thoughts on “Inside/Outside morning news roundup for 11.7

  1. Lynn Willis

    While I appreciate your personal anecdotes, you seem to miss the point of government involvement in infrastructure which is to provide a lasting maximum public benefit including a source of public revenues (but you are not alone). Speaking of government funded critical infrastructure; I just read today that the Alaska Industrial and Export Authority (AIEDA) is prepared to loan 5.4 million dollars for a indoor “family entertainment” business in Wasilla. Perhaps. you will now have another reason to make that easy, (and apparently very affordable and convenient), drive from Haines to Anchorage. Now besides a contract to build this structure and a few minimum wage jobs, what is the long term benefit especially if the population it might benefit won’t be able to afford the admission price?
    In any case, we agree on the pipeline prognosis, however, our leaders have their hearts set on a pipeline and it will cost millions just to prove your point (and that is millions we no longer can spend on roads or bridges to anywhere). Your alternative suggestion of shipping gas by sea from the slope would possibly be restricted to windows of opportunity and would require significant storage for the periods when delivery was not possible and transport would still be required into the interior. You make a valid point; however, I doubt if we can afford now to study any alternatives.

  2. AH HA

    Lynn, I can’t say how many trips back and forth between Anchorage and Haines I’ve made. It’s just not that big a deal.

    As far as gas lines go I really can’t see any economy in building one no matter how we approach it. I suspect the producers know something that we should realize as well…. The Arctic is thawing and long before we ever get that pipe laid and gas flowing, we could build a viable port in Prudhoe Bay or elsewhere along the north coast. It will be far cheaper and offer near perfect access to all the global markets via the ‘great circle’. Thus, any economic viability for a gas line will be gone since the only remaining customers will be in the Anchorage – Fairbanks rail belt.

  3. Lynn Willis

    I am not going to drive 700 miles without rest (think lodging costs both ways assuming lodging is available). Also, the thought of spending days on a winter road trip to Haines during the legislative session is a bit daunting. Have you ever experienced the joy of facing a roadside repair, or even starting you car at 40 below in the Tok region?
    Otherwise, as the situation stands today, I can leave my home in Anchorage, do my business in Juneau, and be home that night. Pretty much a zero sum cost in dollars and certainly an advantage if my time is valuable. Also, if I use the constituent fare or credit card miles the airfare cost is reduced or negligible as a bonus from my other purchases over time.
    If we have the funds we can do anything; however, these so called “fiscal conservative” legislators and the current Governor have done all they can to remove our options and now we face multiple “either/or” decisions regarding funded not “which first”.
    I appreciate your observations that capital project expenses become operational budget expenses to maintain. I might remind you that I also pay those seemingly “free” federal tax dollars. With that said, you might ponder just home much we can now afford to add to the operating budget. Soon enough the earnings from the Permanent Fund will be required to pay for operating budget expenses and our PFD checks will become a nominal payment,if we receive any payment at all, or do not immediatley return that payment to the state in a form of tax payment.
    I find your argument for a more convenient trip between Juneau and Haines as viable as my trip across a current “bridge to nowhere” (as it is now planned) but that won’t be my decision and neither project is likely to be funded as these gas line projects become more and more expensive.

  4. AH HA

    Lynn, If you can fly from Anchorage to Juneau far cheaper I’d like to know your secret…. Alaska Air wants $268.10 for a single passenger one way ticket. That’s not real cheap. $536.20 round trip plus a car rental so you can gets around in Juneau for another $70 per day. that’s $606 to get there and back. driving costs about 148.75 if you pay $4.25 a gallon and use about 35 gallons or 20MPG. drive time is 14 hours if you are good 16 if you take your time.

    Also, one might bear in mind that projects like building ferry vessels or building highways are capitol projects and the build cost can be prorated over the useful lifetime of the road or ferry. of course roads tend to many times longer than ferries. Operational costs are different and are accounted for separately from capitol costs. maintaining a road is far cheaper than operating a ferry. Currently the passenger on the AMHS is paying $5.53 per passenger mile and that represents a very small percentage of the full cost per mile. The State and the Federal Government (tax payers) are subsidizing the remainder.

    Are you willing to pay $5.53 per passenger mile to drive to Fairbanks from Anchorage? Or from Downtown Anchorage to Eagle River? You should be. That is exactly what you are asking people in southeast to do and at the same time you are asking people in southeast to help pay for your free roads…..

  5. Anonymous

    Alaska Natives, women and Democrats who deserted Scott McAdams were all probably waiting for consideration of some sort. Many will remember.

  6. Lynn Willis

    I attempted to respond yesterday (on two different computers) and kept getting error messages. What I was going to say was thank you for the information and remind you that these mega projects have to make economic sense. I appreciate the savings you and others might realize on a drive to Haines; however, that is nowhere near a justification for this expense. Is there a mine, energy asset, or other reason to build this road including a prospect resulting in state revenue? This proposed road serves no practical purpose as a “road to Juneau” for me because Haines is about 700 miles from Anchorage and I have to drive there first to realize any benefit from this road and the new ferries.. I can fly to Juneau for much less cost regardless of how much savings I might realize using this alternate route from Haines..
    A very similar situation exists in Anchorage with the Knik Arm Bridge in its’ current location with no connecting roads to collect or distribute commuter traffic and no “anchor tenant” like a port or airport on the other side to justify this two lane bridge with limited access. We never hear just how much investment would have to take place (or by whom) to create these bedroom communities that would allow residential expansion from Anchorage.
    You point out how other projects have been built in Alaska and I would remind you that most are no longer here because they lost the justification for existence. An exception is the White Pass and Yukon Railroad which has found a “second life” as a tourist railroad yet we both know that is hardly the reason it was built.
    I would hope the legislature would learn from out history before they throw more money at these efforts to create jobs and then only have a “hope” something becomes of them. We simply cannot afford to speculate on these endeavors because all our speculative funds are now committed to gas pipeline projects.

  7. Crude is Rude - Gas is gold

    AH HA; .. I looked at different Juneau/Haines/Skagway road routes too..
    Sometimes I have coffee with the engineers who designed the WA-State floating bridges.. they admit among themselves there’s much better/safer floating bridge technology available than what has been built in WA-state, and this improved technology can be added with not much extra cost.

    About 50% of the eastern shoreline route can be floating bridges hugging the steep shore. Wave-energy devices can be added to strengthen the bridge with wave-dampers [free energy for de-icing & illuminating the bridge]

    It’s easier to build & maintain a mile of floating bridge than bore a mile of tunnel, or build a mile of ferrocement mountain roadway thru glacier & rockfall geology.., a floating bridge is a nice flat-strait drive for traffic.

    click on my nickname for a map

    ******** as for state spending priorities, I’d choose to build the coastal gasline/fiberoptic first, then build this road.
    A coastal flexpipe gas-fiber is much more important for the pressing National Security priority than building this road.
    Plus, the coastal flexpipe/fiber will add much more to the state’s revenue stream than this road project will, and it will boost the overall state economy, adding a lotta permanent jobs too.
    National Security is one of many good reasons for Alaskans to build the coastal flexpipe/fiberoptic gasline from Kaktovik to Kotzebue to Kodiak, and on down the lost-coast to Ketchikan..

  8. AH HA

    Amanda, several maps have been done illustrating these options. Here are two that exist at the State of Alaska DOT site:

    Note: it’s always been my belief that for the western route, an additional 4 or 5 miles of road continuing up the east side of the Chilkat river would provide for a far easier river crossing linking to Haines Highway at a quite narrow spot on the river at also (in my experience seems to have a more stable soil mixture for piling, more gravel in the mix less fines. But I’m not an engineer so who knows? perhaps it had been considered.

    As far as the Eastern Route up Lynn Canal, I would think that a far better alternative would be to place the pusher ferry crossing so that it crosses just about due west (map west) from Katzaheen Flats to Battery Point, just south of downtown Haines or even directly to the existing port facility in downtown Haines rather than having the ferry go past Haines to Lutak inlet to the existing AMHS facility.

  9. joe blow

    I think among some Natives there is or was a sense of entitlement. “Since we put her in office, she should do what we say. She promised X and it hasn’t happened …she forgot about us after the election.” I don’t think that’s fair but people often are not.

  10. AH HA

    All three options have advantages and disadvantages. The Marine highway already exists. (It’s only real advantage) But is slow and spendy and it’s not going to get faster or cheaper. Couple that with the fact that with the exception of the two largely unusable fast ferries, the entire fleet is aging and many vessels are near or past their expected service life. In addition, the ferries (even the new ones that are proposed) use far more fuel and produce far more pollution per passenger mile than a comparable amount of passenger miles driven via automobiles.

    The western land route would be an easier build but will require a bit longer ferry ride than the eastern route. From Berners Bay across Lynn Canal to Boat Harbor would be a little less than an hour. The drive distance would be about the same as the eastern route. Something like 60 miles. Making it less palatable is that it essentially introduces a road along a good portion of Glacier Bay National Park / Monument boundary where the eastern route keeps a water barrier between the park and the road, something that should be considered.

    The eastern land route is definitely difficult terrain. But, it’s buildable and it’s maintainable and it will require a very short ride on a pusher type ferry. As far as that terrain goes, the existing road out of Skagway is something to see and it got built without any drama in the 1970’s. Also in the Skagway area, The White Pass railroad is an engineering marvel that was no problem to build in 1899. It can be and was operated year around. The Going To The Sun Road in Montana was built largely by hand (can you believe that?) and completed in 1932. Closer to home the road to Valdez was considered to have been a pretty neat trick when it got built as was the railroad from Cordova to Kennecott.. It got built as well.

  11. AH HA

    Lynn, since you seem to need a class to go with your map let me clarify:

    Currently, ferries run between Juneau and Haines On Monday, Tuesday and Friday. the trip is about 4.5 hours long dock to dock but you have to show up at least 2 hours early to line up and load your car prior to departure and after arrival you will spend at least 1/2 an hour getting off the ship.

    A one away ticket for the car and four passengers is currently (winter rates) $197. of course a meal will be required at about $15 per passenger and if the trip is in the middle of the night as it is lots of the time a cabin is really nice..$75 for that. so a one way trip to Haines is 6 to 7 hours and $332. the distance is about 60 miles dock to dock. that’s $5.53 per mile.

    Compare that to a 60 mile drive done in about an hour and a half (leisurely) from Juneau to the proposed ferry terminal at Kathleen flats from there you board a small pusher ferry for a 15 to 20 minute trip across its very similar to if not identical to the trip from Ketchikan to the airport in Ketchikan…. the ferry runs one round trip an hour. Now my investment is three gallons of gas (I’ve got a guzzler) at $4.00 per gallon or $12. given the savings, I’m willing to pay $50 to make that 20 minute ride across Lynn canal to Haines. so my total is $62.00, I started from Juneau at 7am and it’s now 9am. time for a late breakfast at the Moose Horn (Christy will appreciate the business) and a long day of spending money in the local Haines economy and why not? I’m still ahead by $270 and damn near a full day.

  12. Lynn Willis

    Regarding the article on the road from Juneau; my copy of the “Alaska Atlas and Gazetteer” certainly brings into question the practicality, reality and frankly, honesty of the statement:” Juneau is on the east side of the Lynn Canal; Haines and the accessible part of the Skagway area are on the west side.”, in this context as penned by the author of that article. According to plates 32,33 and 38 of the reference, four very wide (in some cases well over a mile wide) bands of blue (the map color for water) exist between Juneau on the East side of Lynn Canal and the West side of Lynn Canal at Juneau and between the West side of Lynn Canal and Haines on the East Side of the Chilkat Inlet. If you are proposing a direct overland route, the situation doesn’t improve when proceeding north from Haines at the Luktak Inlet or at the Taiya Inlet opposite Skagway. If you are proposing to build up the West side of Lynn Canal to a ferry terminal to proceed North wouldn’t that require yet another ferry route between Juneau and the West side of Lynn Canal? How does that save either time or money?
    Regarding the East side route to another ferry terminal, how many state ferries run north from Juneau (or South to Juneau) on any given day? If there are not that many then what is the advantage of driving North from Juneau only to wait for the ferry you could have boarded in Juneau; or inversely, getting off the Ferry 50 miles North of Juneau if the ship would have not had to stop to let you off North of Juneau?
    I have a suggestion for the State DOT to combine traffic studies for this road with those of Knik Arm Bridge (at least it it’s present proposed location anyway) and title it:
    “Some Desperate Justification to Fund Your Pork if You Will Fund Mine”.
    I would add that this road scheme has exactly the same odor as the impractical Fairbanks LNG trucking idea.

  13. Anonymous

    What is meant “wounds from the Murkowski debacle?” Lots of angry Native money went into that write-in so I don’t get it.

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