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KNBA News - Trans-Alaska Pipeline worth nine times more than owners claimed for taxes

Local governments win against oil companies on value of taxable property

By Associated Press

The Supreme Court in Alaska has upheld a ruling that the trans-Alaska oil pipeline was worth far more than a billion a year the pipeline owners claimed for the years 2007 through 2009. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports that the court late last month affirmed a Superior Court ruling in 2011 that the pipeline was worth $8.9 billion to $9.6 billion those years.

The lawsuit is one of several between pipeline owners and the municipalities that tax the system, including Fairbanks North Star Borough. The value of the pipeline has been disputed each year since 2006.


Village welcomes cleaner, quieter power after switching to hydropower from diesel

Hannah Colton, KDLG - Dillingham

Chignik Lagoon’s hydroelectric project has been running since spring, but the village officially cut the ribbon last week. The system now provides 94% of the community’s energy needs, saving the town about $500 a day on fuel costs. Now the village is re-adjusting to life with the cleaner, quieter power plant.

Packer Creek is a small stream that runs down a steep hill through the middle of Chignik Lagoon. Where before were only small ATV trails, now there is about a mile of gravel access road along the creek, leading up to a new dam.

Walking to the ribbon cutting, hydro project manager Michelle Anderson pointed out where the new road contruction cut into the glacial till in the hillside.

“This is all new road, yes. Once we passed that gate, they started constructing…. So this is all area that hasn’t been opened up before.”

Though the extra space is nice, it’s low on Anderson’s list of benefits to the project. The biggest advantage, she says, is getting away from diesel.

“Just the fact that we have to haul diesel here – there’s that much more chance to can contaminate something,” said Anderson. “The person who is perhaps most familiar with diesel in Chignik Lagoon is Larry McCormick, who operates the diesel plant and most of the other utilities in town.”

“I’m the garbage man, the guy that operates the sewer system, also the fuel man… yeah. pretty much everything,” said McCormick.

McCormick has been working the diesel plant since it started decades ago.

And now, he and two other operators are learning to work with hydro.

At top of Packer Creek, McCormick shows guests the 9-foot dam where water flows into a pipe through a metal screen.

“When it first came online in March,” said McCormick, “there was a couple of times when we had to bust ice off the screen.”

McCormick says when ice or debris clog the screen, the hydro can shut off and the diesel will kick back in. Then it’s his job to get the hydro running again. McCormick expects the year ahead will be full of these little challenges. Still, he says, the hydro will be much easier to manage than the old diesel plant.

“If you ran a diesel engine for 1,000 hours that’s 4 oil changes and that’s 20 gallons of used oil…”

All that oil then has to be transported to a dump site and burned.

McCormick says the hydro system, on the other hand, requires just a little grease on the bearings every 1,000 hours.

“I’ve noticed I do have more time on my hands,” said McCormick. “It’s not as much maintenance. Don’t have to worry about as many things going wrong with this.”

On the way back to town, McCormick gives a tour of the small hydroelectric power house. Inside, water flows from the pipe into a water turbine, generating up to 167 kilowatts of electricity.

The generator is humming, but McCormick says it’s nothing compared to the roar of the diesel plant.

“You wouldn’t hear me if we were in the diesel plant right now … I’d have to be hollering and you’d have to wear ear muffs. This is really quiet.” For the 70 residents of Chignik Lagoon, this is what clean energy sounds like.


Kivalina homes get innovative water and sewer systems

By the Associated Press

The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium is testing a new sanitation system in the impoverished Inupiat community of Kivalina. The Alaska Dispatch News reports ANTHC chose Kivalina as the best candidate village in northwest Alaska to test the sanitation pilot program after a series of studies before 2010. In late August, installation of 10 units was completed in 10 different homes.

The system includes a 100-gallon tank inside the bathroom that holds potable water draining to a faucet and sink. Water from the sink mixes with liquid human waste which eventually flows to an underground leach field. Solid waste still goes into a honey bucket — a large bucket that serves as a toilet in most homes in the village. Each system cost $32,000, plus additional funding to study the system over the next year.