If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, you’ve seen the following headlines:
With a favorable Record of Decision signed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Bureau of Land Management in August of 2018, Donlin Gold has continued its permitting process with Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources. In 2014, Donlin submitted its original application for a Right-of-Way (ROW) lease to build and manage a natural gas pipeline on State lands. The 14-inch small diameter pipeline is expected to be approximately 315 miles total in length. Of the total 315 miles of pipeline, about 207 miles are to be constructed on State lands. The application was amended in 2017 following stakeholder discussions requesting a shift in the pipeline to reduce impacts on the Iditarod National Historic Trail (INHT).
In response to the ROW lease
application and the Analysis and Proposed Decision released by the
Commissioner, public hearings have been announced in the following schedule:
February 27, 2019 4 – 6pm – McGrath Community Center
February 28, 2019 1 – 2pm – Tyonek Tribal Center
March 4, 2019 6 – 8pm – Bethel Cultural Center
March 6, 2019 7 – 9pm – Aniak Community Center
March 12, 2019 5:30 – 7:30pm – Atwood Conference Center (Anchorage)
March 13, 2019 11am – 1pm – Skwenta Roadhouse
Attend the hearings to present your comments orally or in written form to make sure your voice is heard or submit written comments to DNR by March 22, 2019 at 5 pm.
Overview of the Pipeline
Figure 1. Overview of the Natural Gas Pipeline under consideration for Donlin (SRK, 2013).
The shift, referred to as the “North Route,” encompasses about 27 miles from MP 87 to MP 112 of the pipeline and shifts the pipeline about a mile north and east of the original plan. By shifting the pipeline, there would be no crossing of the Happy River, only one INHT crossing in the 27-mile stretch, and decrease the pipeline’s interference with the INHT’s 400-foot easement down to less than 0.1 miles (Feige, C., 2019b). With the 2017 amendment, there will be up to 10 proposed horizontal directional drilling sites for water body crossings (up from 6 in the original application) with 7 located on State lands.
Figure 2. Map of Original and North Routes for Natural Gas Pipeline (Donlin, 2017). The lime green line highlights the 400′ wide easement for the Iditarod National Historic Trail (INHT).
If the ROW lease is issued by the Commissioner, construction of the pipeline will commence within receiving the lease. Completion of the pipeline is scheduled to take between three to four years during winter and summer seasons. Most construction is expected to occur during winter months to take advantage of frozen soil conditions.
During the construction phase of the pipeline, the Right-of-Way disturbance will occupy a width of 150 for a total of 6,610 acres on State lands (this does not include Federal or Native-owned land). Post construction and normal operation of the pipeline would permanently occupy a width of 50 feet for Right-of-Way disturbance, centered on the pipeline, for a total of 1,250 acres on State lands. This permanently disturbed area is part of the total acreage that is compensated for and included in the compensatory mitigation plan agreement between Donlin Gold, LLC and the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority.
During construction of the pipeline, temporary facilities built within the construction ROW will include material sites, access roads, work pads, airfields, and construction camps. Existing airstrips may be modified to handle equipment carrying aircraft. For a full list of the temporary facilities, read the Commissioner’s Analysis and Proposed Decision: Right-of-Way Lease for the Donlin Pipeline, ADL 231908. All temporary sites will undergo stabilization, rehabilitation, and reclamation will occur as soon as applicable, however, no exact timeline has been given for how long the reclamation process will take after construction and use of temporary sites have been completed.
As noted throughout the Donlin Gold permitting process, the Analysis and Proposed Decision highlighted that several natural and cultural resources, including those of historical significance, may be impacted during construction. USACE, as the lead federal agency overseeing the Donlin Section 106 Review, is tasked with ensuring Donlin’s compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) to protect cultural resources. Keep in mind that cultural resources can include, “…paleontological resources (fossils), and pre-historic and historic sites and districts.” (Feige, 2019b). From field surveys, 13 Alaska Heritage Resource Sites were identified, including historic properties, the INHT, and sites with evidence of prehistoric occupation or lithic scatters (USACE, 2018). A Programmatic Agreement was formed as a plan to preserve and protect historic, prehistoric, and archaeological resources that may be uncovered during construction of the pipeline and development of the Donlin Gold project.
Following the public comment period ending March 22, 2019, the Commissioner will review written comments and testimony from public hearings to make a final decision on the ROW lease application. If you would like help submitting a comment, please let our office know and we will be happy to help your voice be heard. Contact us at 907.274.2195 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Articles referenced for this blog post:
Cannon, D. (2019, Feb. 1). Donlin Gold project not as fish-friendly as state asserts. Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved from: www.adn.com/opinions/2019/02/01/donlin-gold-project-not-as-fish-friendly-as-state-asserts/
DeMarban, A. (2019, Jan. 29). Slug of proposed permits launches comment periods for Donlin Gold project. Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved from: www.adn.com/business-economy/2019/01/29/slug-of-proposed-permits-launches-comment-periods-for-donlin-gold-project/
Feige, C. (2019a, Jan. 11). State committed to safely developing Donlin Gold project. Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved from: www.adn.com/opinions/2019/01/11/state-committed-to-safely-developing-donlin-gold-project/
Feige, C. (2019b, Jan. 28). Commissioner’s Analysis and Proposed Decision Right-of-Way Lease for the Donlin Pipeline, ADL 231908. DNR Division of Oil and Gas, State Pipeline Coordinator’s Section. Retrieved from: http://dog.dnr.alaska.gov/Documents/SPCS/PublicNotices/Donlin/1.24.19DonlinROWADL231908CAPD.pdf
Shallenberger, K. (2019, Jan. 28). More Public Comment Periods Set for Donlin Gold Mine. Alaska’s Energy Desk – KYUK. Retrieved from: www.kyuk.org/post/more-public-comment-periods-set-donlin-gold-mine
Shallenberger, K. (2019, Jan. 31). Nonprofit Raises Questions Over Recent Donlin State Permits. Alaska’s Energy Desk – KYUK. Retrieved from: www.kyuk.org/post/nonprofit-raises-questions-over-recent-donlin-state-permits
Shallenberger, K. (2019, Jan. 31). State To Hold Public Hearings in Y-K Delta For Proposed Pipeline Right Of Way. Alaska’s Energy Desk – KYUK. Retrieved from: www.kyuk.org/post/state-hold-public-hearings-y-k-delta-proposed-pipeline-right-way
SRK Consulting (US), Inc. (SRK). (2013, Dec.). Natural Gas Pipeline Plan of Development Donlin Gold Project. Donlin Gold. Retrieved from: http://dnr.alaska.gov/mlw/mining/largemine/donlin/pdf/gaspipeline.pdf
Whitbeck, R. (2019, Jan. 27). Alaska’s energy future is bright – so long as environmentalists don’t derail it. Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved from: www.adn.com/opinions/2019/01/28/alaskas-energy-future-is-bright-so-long-as-environmentalists-dont-derail-it/
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). (2018, June). Programmatic Agreement. Retrieved from: www.dnr.alaska.gov/mlw/mining/largemine/donlin/pdf/pa/dg-programmatic-agreement-2018-06.pdf