Anchorage port director and mayor at odds over scope of port project

ANCHORAGE — The mayor of Anchorage and the director of the Port of Anchorage appear to be at odds over the scope of a project to expand the port.

Mayor Dan Sullivan said last week that he would seek $350 million from the Legislature to ensure the project gets finished in a manner that will serve the state for the next 40 to 50 years.

But port director Bill Sheffield told the Anchorage Daily News that he continues to see the port expansion project as costing about $1 billion. He told the Daily News that he will seek money to finish the project after the initial work is completed.

“The rest of the project will come later,” Sheffield said.

The full-scale project involves creating a new 1.5-mile dock out of sheets of steel, and backfilling it with gravel to create new land. Cargo ships would get new berths. A petroleum dock would be redone.

Sullivan’s chief of staff, Larry Baker, seemed puzzled by Sheffield’s comments.

“I don’t know where he’s coming up with that. That’s clearly not the direction the administration is pursuing,” he said.

Anchorage Democrat, Rep. Les Gara, said that he met with Sheffield on Friday and has written a letter to the mayor and Assembly members informing them that reports that the project has been scaled back are apparently inaccurate.

“Policymakers should know the full cost of this project as the City and Port continue to seek state funding,” Gara wrote. “Apart from minor items, the project has not been scaled back.”

The port project has been stalled because of construction problems and lack of funding. In the 2011 legislative session, Sheffield asked the state for $320 million but received only $30 million.

City and state officials have said the port is essential to the state because much of what Alaskans eat, wear and drive arrives through it.

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