Oil flowing again after earthquake

Gov. Knowles seeks disaster money

Posted: Thursday, November 07, 2002

ANCHORAGE - Tankers in Valdez were expected to resume loading crude oil today after Wednesday's resumption of trans-Alaska pipeline operations.

Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. shut the pipeline down for 66 hours after Sunday's 7.9 magnitude earthquake south of Fairbanks. About 300 people worked to restart the 800-mile pipeline Wednesday morning and no leaks were detected, said Alyeska spokesman Mike Heatwole.

"Everything went pretty much as planned," he said.

The pipeline normally carries about 1 million barrels of oil a day.

As oil flowed again, Gov. Tony Knowles signed a disaster declaration seeking $25 million to repair highways damaged by Sunday's quake.

The 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.

Mentasta also sustained widespread damage.

The damage estimates will likely go up, particularly when permanent fixes to damaged highways are made next year. Knowles said he hoped 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, so planes 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.

Maj. Gen. Phil Oates, who heads the Disaster Policy Cabinet, 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 money to help Alaska better prepare for the next disaster, Oates said.

Knowles also declared a disaster area for the Kenai Peninsula Borough requesting $25 million for damage from October's floods, which closed roads and damaged a variety of private and public buildings. Knowles also is asking that President Bush declare a federal disaster to clear the way for additional federal money. A federal declaration could in a couple of days.

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

Oates 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.

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