Pipeline restarted, governor seeks disaster money

Posted: Thursday, November 07, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Gov. Tony Knowles signed disaster declarations Wednesday for parts of the Interior rocked by a powerful earthquake and areas of the Kenai Peninsula damaged by fall floods.

Meanwhile, crews worked to restart the trans-Alaska pipeline after a 66-hour shutdown that began about 45 minutes after the 7.9 magnitude quake struck at 1:13 p.m. Sunday south of Fairbanks.

About 300 people worked to restart the 800-mile pipeline at 8:23 a.m. No leaks were detected, said Mike Heatwole, spokesman for Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.

Crews kept careful watch on a stretch of pipe near Pump Station 9 where the worst earthquake damage occurred. The oil flowed through that section of pipe without incident at 8:40 a.m.

''Everything went pretty much as planned,'' Heatwole said.

The pipeline normally carries about 1 million barrels of oil a day, but was at a 750,000-barrel capacity by late Wednesday afternoon. The ramp-up would continue until normal capacity is reached, Heatwole said. Valdez tankers were expected to resume loading Thursday afternoon.

Knowles said he's seeking $20 million for Kenai flood damage and $25 million for quake damage. The $25 million is for highway damage only.

The governor also added the city of Shishmaref to a disaster declaration he issued in late October so that city could be reimbursed for erosion damage caused by storms that hit western Alaska. Shishmaref will be eligible for up to $20,000.

The quake declaration covers the Fairbanks North Star Borough, the Denali Borough, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and numerous communities within the Delta-Greely, Alaska Gateway, Copper River and Yukon-Koyukok Regional Education Attendance areas, including the cities of Tetlin, Mentasta Lake, Northway, Dot Lake, Chistochina, Tanacross, Slana and Tok.

''I think almost every home reported being cracked up in Northway,'' Knowles said.

The disaster declaration for the Kenai Peninsula Borough covers the cities of Homer, Seward, Kenai, Soldotna, Kodiak Island Borough and the community of Chignik Bay.

Knowles also is asking that President Bush declare a federal disaster to clear the way for additional federal money. A federal declaration could come as quickly as a couple of days.

''Hopefully we will get some expedited action from the federal government,'' Knowles said.

Maj. Gen. Phil Oates, who heads the Disaster Policy Cabinet, said he spoke with the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency who pledged his full assistance in the Kenai and quake disasters.

Three FEMA teams are in Alaska assessing the damage, Oates said.

The damage estimates will likely go up, particularly when permanent fixes to damaged highways are done next year. Knowles said he hoped that most of the disaster money would come from the federal government.

All of the roads and highways that were damaged in Sunday's quake have been reopened. But traffic is restricted on the Tok Cutoff to daylight hours only. Cars are being allowed through only with a pilot car between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Restricting traffic to daylight hours allows DOT crews to work on the road at night.

''Restoring the roadbed before the area receives a deep freeze or a heavy snowfall is critical to creating a roadway which can be driven safely and maintained this winter,'' Ralph Swarthout, DOT's Northern Region Director, said in a statement.

Temporary repairs on the Tok Cutoff should be completed by early December.

Pilot cars also are being required on the Mentasta Road.

Department of Transportation crews made emergency repairs to the Richardson, Parks and Alaska highways, but are encouraging motorists to reduce speeds and watch for loose gravel.

The Northway Airport remains closed. That means that planes coming from Canada that are required to make a customs stop must go 50 miles out of their way to Tok.

The airport also is used to fly medical emergencies out, said Alaska State Trooper Sgt. James Gallen who lives in Northway.

''Our airport is just a disaster,'' he said.

Oates said a state disaster declaration can free up some federal money but its use is restricted to repairing highways and helping small business owners.

A federal declaration would allow money to go toward helping individuals recover from the disasters, as well as providing assistance for public utilities, schools and the railroad.

Perhaps most importantly, a federal declaration would provide moneys to help Alaska better prepare for the next disaster, Oates said.

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