June 14, 2023 (Article from KTUU News By Joe Cadotte)
It’s the front door to the state from the sea, a vital part of the lives of nearly everyone in Alaska. But there’s a problem. The port — where Mayor Dave Bronson said 90% of Alaskans get their food and supplies from — is aging.
If major revitalization isn’t done to the Port of Alaska, major portions of the dock will be taken out of service in as soon as seven years, Port Director Steve Ribuffo said.
“If something catastrophic happens to the entire port because we chose not to invest in replacing it, then we’re in a world of hurt,” Ribuffo said.
Friday, Ribuffo, private companies and Anchorage Assembly members had a work session talking about the second phase of an overall project that will eventually replace everything at the port, which originally opened in 1961.
“We are designing upon what the basis of design will be for the new cargo docks which is the next step in what we call the Port of Alaska Modernization Program,” Ribuffo said.
Assembly members had a variety of questions and concerns they wanted to be addressed at Friday’s work session.
“I’m frustrated with this discussion overall because I believe it has not been really based in those basic planning principles,” said Anchorage Assembly Member Anna Brawley, comparing the Port of Alaska project with an airport project.
“It’s not a master plan,” Ribuffo said, responding to Brawley. “It’s a strategic plan.”
Ribuffo also addressed questions about the need for the port to expand. Most people agree that the port needs to be replaced, but some are concerned solely about commercial aspects while others are worried about potential security issues, Ribuffo said.
“There isn’t a single disaster response and recovery plan for the State of Alaska that doesn’t assume this port survived whatever it was that is requiring the disaster relief effort,” he said. “That’s a big deal and what kind of infrastructure do you need in order to be prepared to support that mission?”
There are five total phases of the Port of Alaska Modernization Program spanning to 2035. Once complete, there will be nothing remaining of the old docks, Ribuffo said. The second phase is on the June 20 Assembly meeting public hearing agenda.