Thursday, October 16, 2014

The State Pipeline Coordinator’s Office(SPCO) Hosts Public Meeting Regarding Donlin Gold Pipeline Right of Way Lease Application

October 15, 2014

Photo taken from Donlin Gold LLC Right of Way Lease Application, found here

A Public hearing was held on the AS 38.35 Donlin Gold Pipeline Right-of-way application on October 15 at the Anchorage Loussac Library.  Georgetown Tribal Council President Buddy Kutch was in attendance, along with GTC Environmental Coordinator, Kate Schaberg.

The hearing only applied to proposed pipeline right of way on state land.  The state gave a presentation, offered an opportunity for folks to get up and talk/ask questions of agencies, which was then followed by public testimony.

State Presentation

The SPCO Right of Way Leasing Act (AS 38.35) develops and administers right-of-way leases for pipelines on state land.  It also provides continued oversight of leasehold for the life of the pipeline. In the state of Alaska, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System is the most well known pipeline that operates under AS 38.35.  There are 18 total operating in the state, and 3 leases issued that are not yet in operation.

Donlin Gold, LLC filed an application April 9, 2014 and are in the early application phase.  They requested use of state land for a  14 inch predominately buried natural gas pipeline.  It would incorporate 207 miles of state land from Beluga to Crooked Creek (mine site).  The other 1/3 of the land is on BLM and ANSCA lands.  The lease would be for up to 150 foot corridor for construction, reduced to 50 foot width for operations.

The SPCO Process

·         Notice of Application filed for 60 days

·         Hold Public Hearings (WE ARE HERE NOW)

·         Draft the Analysis and Preliminary Decision

·         Draft the lease with stipulations

·         Notice Analysis with Draft Lease for 30 days

o   hold public hearings (Spring 2016)

o   review and consider comments

·         Issue Final Finding (est. Fall 2016)

o   offer lease then, if final decision is to approve

The lease itself would identify the land the state is authorizing for use, establish rent and identify the process for extensions and termination.

Stipulations that go along with the lease are specific to that lease.  When a lease is issued, it does not mean they can proceed...the applicant first has to complete the “notice to proceed” process.  In this process, mitigation measures are taken, environmental protocols are established, design standards are adhered to, etc.  Basically, they have to have planning in place to construct in a specific way that makes all agencies happy.  If they don’t do that, even if a lease is issued, they cannot move forward with construction.

Public Testimony

Several people who work within the mining industry both in Alaska and internationally, offered comments of support for the pipeline lease to be issued.  They cited positive benefits such as economic development for the area, access to natural gas in the area lowering energy costs, minimal permanent impact to the area, decreased use of barges on the river, and local hire.

Representatives from the Iron Dog and Iditarod boards also spoke in support of the lease application being approved.  They stated that Donlin provides maintenance support for the trail and has helped benefit communities that are along the route.  They also mentioned that Donlin listened  to their initial concerns, and the proposed route was changed, which reduced the overlap by 50 miles.  There will be less than 10 miles of overlap with the trail, and they felt the historical trail/race trail would not be damaged.

A TKC representative also spoke in support of the project.  Their main reasoning was that the pipeline would reduce amount of barge traffic on the river, reduce the amount of diesel needed to be transported on the river, and provide a benefit to the ten villages that they represent.

Limited people were at the meeting from communities in the region that would be most affected by this project moving forward, but those that were there voiced concerns.

Concerns were voiced on behalf of Nikolai council members regarding moose hunting.  Ray Collins stated that the pipeline route would be in the foothills, along the same corridor that moose travel.  There is already extensive hunting in the area, where people get dropped in – after construction there will be a natural route along the pipeline for four wheelers to travel – further increasing hunting pressure. He suggested that they move the route a few miles further to the north instead of skirting the foothills, where moose travel.

There was one other member of the public who spoke in support of this suggestion, and wanted them to move the route 30 miles to the north from mile 150-185 of the pipeline.

Comments are due by 5:00 PM on January 28, 2015.

Written comments to:

            411 West 4th Avenue, Suite 2

            Anchorage, AK 99501

Email comments to:


More opportunity to comment will be available after notice of the analysis with draft lease (estimated out in Spring 2016).

For more information on Donlin Gold's application, please visit the SPCO website