Future projects spell big bucksx

Economy to get $150 million boost

Posted: Saturday, April 22, 2000

Tally the projects, and there is a lot of money being spent in the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

Over the next few years, the state plans tens of millions of dollars in highway projects, including an upgrade to the Sterling Highway in Soldotna and widening of the Kenai River bridge.

Forcenergy Inc. plans installation this summer of a $35 million exploration platform by Redoubt Shoal. It plans $30 million in exploratory wells, and if those find sufficient oil, more wells and production facilities could follow. Also this summer, Phillips Petroleum Co. plans to start a $30 million upgrade to its Tyonek Platform.

In addition to those, there are more than $50 million in capital projects either now under way or planned for the coming year. There are more than $150 million in projects planned over the next four or five years, including the $90 million electrical intertie between Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula.

Here is a look at the list:

n Homer Electric Association hopes to break ground in March on a project to turn waste heat from the Soldotna 1 generator into steam for Alaska Nitrogen Products.

VECO Construction Inc. has the $23 million contract to move the generator from Soldotna to the Nikiski plant, said HEA spokesperson Sandra Ghormley. A new building there will house the generator and steam plant. HEA also plans a new electric switching yard. Alaska Electric Generation and Transmission Cooperative, of which HEA is a primary member, will pay the $23 million, she said, and ANP will reimburse AEG&T $6 million.

ANP will supply natural gas for the generator. In return, it will receive 5 megawatts of power and waste heat to make steam.

The 40-megawatt generator now sits idle about two-thirds of the time. In Nikiski, it will run full-time, and that will increase reliability of the electrical grid. ANP's gas will make it inexpensive to generate power, improving HEA rates.

AEG&T will own the cogeneration facility and maintain the generator. Chugach Electric Associa-tion will dispatch the electrical output. ANP will own the land and the steam lines and will maintain the steam generator.

Meanwhile, HEA expects to complete construction in April of a $4 million substation behind Kenai Chrysler Center. That will improve reliability of service to the Kenai area, and sustain expected load growth for more than 20 years.

n Chugach Electric Association hopes to begin design and materials acquisition next year for a new 138,000-volt electrical transmission line from Anchorage to the Kenai Peninsula.

Chugach spokesman Phil Steyer said the proposed $90 million Southern Intertie would back up the existing 115,000-volt line, which follows an avalanche-plagued route along the Seward and Sterling highways from Anchorage to a substation in Cooper Landing.

The new intertie would improve reliability of railbelt power. Chugach would build it, but six railbelt utilities -- including HEA, Chugach and the city of Seward, would own it.

A mid-1990s study identified three possible routes. Chugach favors a 72-mile route paralleling Enstar's natural gas pipeline from Soldotna to Anchorage. That arcs through the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, west of the Kenai Mountains, then passes under Turnagain Arm. Chugach recently applied to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a right of way.

It expects to have a draft environmental impact statement for public review in June and finalize its decision on a route early next year. Construction money would come from the six participating utilities and from a $46 million state grant. Construction will take two or three years.

Chugach also plans a $6.1 million upgrade this spring to its Cooper Lake Hydroelectric Project, boosting the project's generation capacity by 10 percent.

n B. West Construction is the apparent low bidder to build a $4.5 million Alaska Railroad Corp. cargo dock in Seward. Construc-tion should begin in the fall and be done by Jan. 1.

Roy Thomas, the railroad's civil engineering manager, said the new dock will allow the railroad to separate freight traffic from cruise ship and ferry traffic.

In 2001, the railroad plans a $5 million project to convert the old cargo dock to better accommodate passenger traffic. It will resurface the dock, landscape for a less industrial appearance and remodel the present warehouse to look more like the passenger terminal, Thomas said. The railroad also plans improvements to make it easier for cruise passengers to take the railroad, instead of buses, to Anchorage and Denali.

The promise of a new cargo dock is already attracting business. Thomas said Northland Barge, which now docks on an as-needed basis in Seward, plans regular service beginning in March. It will use the existing dock until the new one is finished, he said.

n The city of Seward plans to start a $3.2 million state-funded project in October to replace the aging floats in the north half of its harbor, said city manager Scott Janke.

He said he hopes a separate $12.5-million project to add 360 new boat slips will start in about two years.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engi-neers should pay at least the $4.5-million cost of a breakwater and navigation channels, he said, and the city seeks federal help to pay the remaining cost.

The city plans this year to install a $1.5 million electrical generator and make $1 million in repairs to the Lowell Creek tunnel. It also may start a $3 million levee project. The city has $1.5 million in federal grants, which could fund the first phase.

n The $3.8 million Challenger Learning Center in Kenai should be nearly finished by mid-March, outgoing director Bill Popp told a recent meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly.

The center, built largely with federal money Sen. Ted Stevens extracted from Congress, will provide simulated space missions to help school children learn mathematics, science and technology.

"There are 76 school mission slots available during the current school year," Popp said. "They were all booked as of two days ago, and more than half are from off the Kenai Peninsula -- Dillingham, Aniak, Cordova, Fairbanks, Anchorage, Palmer, Wasilla (also have made reservations)."

The grand opening is slated for May or June.

n The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service already has $10.5 million from Congress toward the new $17 million Homer headquarters for the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge and the Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.

The refuge is part of Fish and Wildlife, while the reserve is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Poppy Benson, refuge outdoor recreation planner, said the new building will include a visitor, environmental and education center, an auditorium, a multi-purpose room and laboratories for school children and exhibits about the far-flung refuge, including its sea birds and marine mammals, history and Aleut culture.

The refuge already has land by Beluga Slough. It hopes to start design next fall, let construction contracts in spring 2002 and open in spring 2004. Benson expects about 70,000 visitors in the center's first year.

n The nonprofit North Pacific Volcano Learning Center has retained an Anchorage firm to help organize fund raising for the proposed $12.5 million center on 80 acres by the Stariski River.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough contributed $315,000 toward the land purchase, and the corporation agreed to pay the remaining $85,000. The corporation has one payment left, said Bob Favretto, its new president. The borough will own the land and could require the corporation to buy or lease it before building the center.

Vice president Emmitt Trimble said the corporation has raised about $80,000 so far, including in-kind donations. It plans to send a delegation to Washington, D.C., this spring to seek federal funds.

n The city of Soldotna is requesting proposals to study possible improvements to the Soldotna Sports Center, said city manager Tom Boedeker. Those include expanding meeting space, covering the outdoor ice rink and adding an indoor field for activities such as soccer and baseball.

n Kenai Mayor John Williams said groundbreaking should be this spring for a new $2.7 million public health building in Kenai. Built with state and Central Peninsula General Hospital funds on land donated by the city, it will house the state public health nurse and a CPGH clinic.

Williams said he is seeking $450,000 from Congress to begin engineering the proposed $10 million coastal trail along the Kenai River from Old Town to the Pacific Star cannery.

He also is seeking $2.5 million to finish Kenai's new outdoor ice rink. Additions could include team and activity rooms, showers, fire protection equipment, an enclosure and equipment to make permanent ice.

n The city of Homer plans a two-year, $10.8-million project to replace the aging dock used by Alaska Marine Highway System ferries and the U.S. Coast Guard buoy tender Sedge.

If it finds funding, construction could begin next fall, said Bill Abbott, port and harbor director. Homer hopes to fund construction with municipal revenue bonds and state and federal funds.

One impetus is that the Coast Guard plans to replace the Sedge in two years with a ship too big for the present Coast Guard berth at the dock.

The new dock will be a U-shaped structure on steel pilings, with space for the new cutter and the load capacity for heavy cranes and freight. It will wrap around the existing dock, which the city plans to remodel for tourist traffic. It will receive state ferries, cruise ships and fuel for the Petro Marine Services terminal.

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