Printer Friendly

Cordova's proposed port: a controversial project: will this development benefit an economically depressed community?

In August 2003, United States Interior Secretary Gale Norton announced that the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs is issuing requests for an environmental impact study on a public-works project near Cordova.

The $18 million project calls for several facilities: a 4.3 mile road to be built between Cordova and Shepard Point, and a deep draft port and spill-response depot to be built at Shepard Point. The Bureau of Indian Affairs hopes to complete the environmental impact statement in 2004.

"Construction will begin as soon as possible once the EIS and permitting are properly completed and design work is finalized," says Bruce Cain, executive director of the Native Village of Eyak.

Eyak is located on the Copper River Highway, 5.5 miles southeast of Cordova between Eyak Lake and the Cordova airport. Shepard Point is located 10 miles north of Cordova on Orca Inlet. It is the site of an abandoned cannery owned jointly by Eyak Corp. and Chugach Alaska Corp. They have agreed to contribute the site as a right of way for the project, says Cain.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs, the federal Department of Transportation, the Alaska Department of Transportation and the Native Village of Eyak see the proposed project as a way to improve Cordova's standard of living. So does Peratrovich, Nottingham & Drage Inc., which has been involved as a consultant on the project since 1989 until several years ago.

"Cordova is a dying town," states Dennis Nottingham, of the Anchorage-based engineering firm. "The city is economically depressed and could use this project."

Margy Johnson, who has served as mayor of Cordova for three terms, says the idea of a deep-water port has been around for many years.

The 1964 earthquake raised the sea bottom in the nearby harbor by up to 10 feet, blocking access by cruises and many other commercial ships. Johnson says that a city without road access needs a deep-water port.

On the other hand are environmentalists, headed by the Eyak Preservation Council. They have spent years fighting the proposed project.

Dune Lankard, a shareholder in the Native Eyak Corp., and member of the Eyak Preservation Council, notes, "to date, EPC does not believe that the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Federal Department of Transportation, The Eyak Corp. ... have shown sufficient needs and supporting facts about why we need to move forward on this port project."

Margy Johnson questions Lankard's statement. "Coastal towns like Cordova need to have a chance to expand their economy. Should tourism or other business develop as a result of a port, it can only enhance Cordova's economy."

Sue Laird, vice president of Prime Select Seafoods, has opinions that lie somewhere between those whose support port development and the environmentalists. She believes that both make some valid points.

Her company distributes Copper River salmon, Gulf of Alaska halibut and other fine Alaska fish and seafood.

"We won't see any particular benefit, unless there's more dock space," she says. Laird speculates on more fishermen and fisherwomen using dock space at the proposed port. "I don't see much change in the processing part. We'll probably see more tourists, more outgoing products. More cruise ships and log ships."

More dock space used may lead to more fisheries being opened. More tourists coming to Cordova may lead to more hotels and restaurants being opened. More tourists may lead to more boat charters, air charters and outfitters.

However, The Eyak Preservation Council sees potential environmental disaster.

"We don't need the port," Lankard says. "It would destroy fish habitat and encourage additional development in this unique commercial and subsistence fishing region."

The government, continues Lankard, really wants to extract resources. "To maintain that this project would be an effective oil-spill response facility by having a port farther from town, farther from the airport and farther from the Coast Guard base is absurd."

Margy Johnson rebuts Lankard's statement. "Ports and roads can be built in harmony with the environment," she says. "Alaska has an excellent record in maintaining a pure environment. This project would be no exception. The residents of Alaska are outstanding stewards of the land."

The purpose of a spill-response facility is to provide, in the event of an emergency, the capability for rapid deployment of oil-spill recovery equipment that could be flown into Cordova and subsequently transported by oceangoing, deep draft vessels to an oil-spill site in Prince William Sound.

Johnson remembers the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989. "It was a watershed event that taught residents of the coast valuable lessons. One is the use of escort vessels, which are currently in use. Cordova, unlike Valdez, has an excellent jet airport. To be able to get supplies to the Sound via jet and water would be more efficient via a deep water port."

"The port's going to be built no matter what," says Laird. "I hope it provides benefits to the community and doesn't harm the community."
COPYRIGHT 2003 Alaska Business Publishing Company, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:$18 million project
Author:Santi, Behlor
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2003
Previous Article:Port MacKenzie development: moving forward at a fast pace: goals are being met and much work lies on the horizon.
Next Article:Commuter rail service shows promise: Valley residents can sip coffee and read the paper, while enjoying a pleasant commute to Anchorage.

Related Articles
The port of anchorage: Q&A with Bill Sheffield. .
Pulaski Bank & Trust: Little Rock.
Depressed Kuskokwim region point of focus for mine and land development: region debates pros and cons of Port authority.
Cordova spill response facility nears decision: environmentalists vow lawsuits to halt construction.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters