Media Scrutiny of Port Project Puts Officials on the Spot

After news reports highlighted them, the Anchorage Assembly moved concerns about the Port of Anchorage Expansion project to the top of their agenda at their regular meeting Tuesday.

Recent news stories highlighted that the municipality was keeping a draft study of what went wrong with the port project under wraps until after the Nov. 6 election, just as they were asking voters to approve 50 million more dollars for the project in a statewide bond proposition. The municipality presented a

Paul Honeman

memo presented to the assembly outlined information that was released by the U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration to Anchorage Daily News reporter Lisa Demer, and listed her questions. After reading the memo, Assembly member Paul Honeman asked if, now that more information about problems with the port project was out in the open, the Mayor could put a price tag on the project.

“Is there anything binding us from putting out more information in advance of the Nov. 6 election for this bond that asks about $50 million to residents? I don’t buy the fact that no matter which design we go with we’re gonna need a lot of money. I think we’re going to need a little more than that,” Honeman said.

Information from the 2,200 page draft study is set to be released on Nov. 9, three days after the election. The Municipality says they can’t share it because of a confidentiality agreement. In an email from Kim Riddle with Martime Administration says that the preliminary findings of the study support their concerns

Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan

that the design was inappropriate. Because the information Maritime Administration released confirmed that there were problems, Assembly member Honeman reasoned with Mayor Sullivan, that it made sense to just tell the public, before election day, how much more the port project would likely cost.

Honeman: Would it be fair to say that, either project, whichever way to complete this port project – whatever it looks like – is going to be in excess of $300 million, or $400 million, or something that we can give to our constituents and our residents in advance of the vote? Sullivan: You have that information now sir, feel free to share. Honeman: So, $300 million? Sullivan: At least.”

Sullivan said the municipality planned to request an additional $250 million from the State. Sullivan did revise a request to cover attorney fees, reducing the amount from $2 million to $250,000. The request was unanimously approved by the Assembly. The $50 million port request is the largest in the more than $450 million statewide bond proposition that goes before the voters on Nov. 6.

Download Audio