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Cedar Rapids Gazette Newspaper Archive: May 26, 1974 - Page 10

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Publication: Cedar Rapids Gazette

Location: Cedar Rapids, Iowa

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   Cedar Rapids Gazette (Newspaper) - May 26, 1974, Cedar Rapids, Iowa                                1QA Tht Odar Rapids (iazMte: Sin.. May 1S74 Problems Rival Pyramids For Alaskan Oil Pipeline NOTE What hath congress wrought? The Alaskan pipeline, 'freed from its fegaf snarls by federal action, is moving again. Pipe won't be laid until next year. A per- manent rood comes first. But the long-awaited nearly billion pipeline, authorized by congress last November, is finally to be built through spec- tacular Alaska, a land that may never be the same. By John Barbeur ABOVE THE FROZEN YUKON RIVER, Alaska (AP) The trouble with summer up here is that it melts the road. But it also brings some 20 hours of daylight. Men can work a double shift and shed their parkas and thermal un- derwear. Daylight and cold. The thaw and the delicate tundra. Those are crucial elements to the long-delayed Alaskan oil pipeline, a 789-mile plumber's delight, oilman's frustration, ecologist's despair, that will wind through landscape as desolate and spectacular as the moon and almost as remote. Pipeline men figure it a nominally difficult task but to the layman's eye it seems to rival the pyramids and dwarf the Aswan dam. The pipe is four feet ia diameter and will reach from the oil fields of Prudhoe bay on the Arctic ocean to Valdez (pronounced an ice-free harbor on Prince William sound, a gateway to West Coast ports in "the lower 48." In between, the route spans the bitter ice-bound plains from Prudhoe southward, climbing through the craggy ramparts of the Brooks range, snaking through a pass over the con- tinental divide, south still across the Arctic Circle, over moose tracks and caribou trails between mountains ladled with melting marsh- mallow snow, down lo the frozen Yukon river where men have forced the waters to create a bridge of ice. From thence still south past Fair- banks, a tiny town, an Alaskan metropolis, born in a gold rush, braced for an oil rush, over miles of tundra to Isabel pass, feet high through the Alaska range, into the Chugach mountains, down, down, down through the granite splendor of Keystone Canyon to Valdez, population before it all began, plus before it ends. Distance.is magnified by the desolate and remote terrain. Shorter in air miles than the route from New York to Chicago, the pipeline trail begins at a town once de- stroyed by a tidal wave and ends in a northern wilderness dotted by drilling rigs where the smallest necessity must be brought in from the outside. Cosf, Stakes Both High Aviation gasoline, which costs 53 cents a gallon in Anchorage, costs a gallon at Deadhorse near isolated Prudhoe. It costs the oil com- panies a day lo support a man at Prudhoe; meals alone arc a day. They pay it willingly. The stakes are high. When the pipe opens in 1977, it will take 11 million barrels of oil to fill it before one drop conies out the southern end. At peak, it will deliver two million barrels of crude a day, enough to fill a daily fleet of tanker trucks, or a train more than tank cars long. Frank A. Therrell, an oil company engineer who has been on the pipeline since it was deemed feasible in 1968, explains its uniqueness: "What strikes me is (he remoteness. It's like going back to the very early days of pipelining when they needed large crews, almost like marshaling a small army. You had your tent camps and your cooks and yonr moles. We have equipment now, bnt we still have to contend with the remoteness. "There's no town on that pipeline where if you were to move in with a thousand men you could find beds for them. So you have lo go in and essentially build new little ci- ties for them." And that's what they've done up and down the pipeline route. The camps, ghost towns for more than three years, now freed from legal snarls arc bustling again. Flying into Prudhoe in early Happy Valley Toolik Galbraith Lake Brooks Range Route Map of the Trans Alaska Pipeline Coldfoot Prospect Creek Arctic 5 Fairbanks Alaska Range Cooper River Basin spring, the eye is devastated by the bleak, endless, snowy plain. The airplane radio blurts out the weather report: clear, temperature 32 degrees below, combining with a 14- knot breeze to yield a wind- chill factor of 64 degrees below zero, a mild day for Prudhoe bay. In the winter the wind-chill factor drops to 115 degrees below, and for nearly two months the sun never rises above the horizon. But by mid- April there is enough sunlight for 24-hour outdoor operations, with temperatures hi the 70s. It lasts only four months before the sun recedes again. Prudhoe covers a relatively small area, barely 280 square miles. Below are 10 billion barrels of oil and 26 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. There is the promise of even more. The some 65 wells, already drilled are capped and the only oil taken from the field is used to refine barrels of heat- ing oil a day lo provide power and heat to run what is essen- tially a small city. Profecf Tundra But this heart of the oil bonanza some miles from the North Pole is also the heart of the frustration and the problems which have beset the Alaskan oil find from the beginning. Buildings are erected on pilings or gravel beds to protect the tundra. In winter, the tundra is es- sentially a frozen swamp. Beautiful in a sense, says oil- man Therrell, "with the shapes and the forms and the shadows" in the deep and drifting snow. But after the ice and snow have gone, it looks from the air like a green and flowered plain. "But you get down on it and you get your feet wet. It's a swamp really, and it's better about the first of September when it's getting cool and the mosquitoes are gone." Below the winter snow are caribou moss and reindeer lichen, and the mishmash of plants thai make up the tundra. "It's that very thick, plush vegetative mat that helps act as an explains Therrell. "And that's why the permafrost there is very close to the surface only eighteen inches to a foot down in the summertime." The tundra protects the per- mafrost, and the permafrost has been the (ecus of the oil pipeline problem. It is that al- ways frozen ground below the Arctic surface. Sometimes gravel, sometimes silt, some- times rock. The rock offers no problem. Bat the gravel and sill, bound together by ice, are a problem when they thaw. The ground becomes dif- ficult to control. It sinks, 'slides, flows in obedience to gravity. The oil gushing out at Prudhoo will be 170 degrees .hoi. In the pipeline it will average about 140 degrees. Originally the plan was to bury 90 percent of the pipeline in a trench along the trail. That was in many areas a threat to the permafrost. It would likely have been a threat to the pipeline, too. That kind of defiance of na- ture could ruin the land. The modified plan now provides that half of the line will be elevated on pipe-like stilts to protect the permafrost. Buried sections will be laid only when soil conditions can stand the thaw. It raises the cost of the line. The pipeline company had to buy miles of 18-inch pipe for the elevating stilts. There will be no pipe laid until 1975. First, the Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., owned by seven oil firms, must build a year-round road. That begins this summer. Delayed 3 fc Years Controversy and court bat- tles over permafrost damage from buried pipe and possible interference with caribou and wildlife migration from elevated pipe have delayed the line for 3% years. More than million worth of camps and equipment have lain idle along the route. Some million worth of pipe has weathered and rusted. When the project was authorized by congress last November, the pipeline company mobilized again. One of the first chores was to replace all the lires on the thousands of vehicles wait- ing along the trail. The pipeline route is roughly 400 feet wide by 789 miles long. It measures at most 14 square miles in a SSfi.OOO square mile state. At the beginning, and even now, oilmen decried the delay over what they con- sidered such a pittance of land. Today, even the men who will police the pipeline grant that the delay may have been over-long. Andrew Rollins, the federal overseer, says, "Yeah. I'll agree to that Really the penalty In time came when It got into the courts. year and a half maybe two years delay for re-engineering, yes. That was a delay that should have been. Subsequent delays have been because of court ac- tions." Chuck Champion, the over- seer for the state, says the change in the original plan was essential, burying only 50 per- cent of the pipe instead of 90 percent. "That's an additional 40 percent that would have been if not a horrendous maintenance problem, then an ecological disaster. There's another aspect of this. The cost of the line has increased im- measurably in the last Ihree years. But we've also had an enormous increase in the wellhead price of crude. 1 wonder if the oil companies haven't made money in terms of the in-place value of recoverable reserves." Both Rollins and Champion have the power under federal regulations to shut down pipeline construction or eventually the flow of oil. Bolh are adamant that the company will abide by approved safeguards. Shutdown. Rollins and Champion have a powerful weapon. With a limited con- struction year, time is money. The oilmen must lay pipe while the sun shines. Says Champion: "If you divide the total es- timated cost of this project by the number of days and hours during which construction is going to take place, it's an ex- penditure of about an hour, which gives you some idea of the magnitude of this project. "And that's why I said the DIETRICH Camp lies in a valley cutting through the Brooks mountains on the route of the Alaskan pipeline, about a quarter of the way down its 789-mile length from Prudhoe. This aerial view, facing east, shows equipment, and housing for the men who will build the pipeline there are about 70 now, eventually over 900 men will live and work here. The pipeline will run north-south along the valley, across the area seen in the background. last step is going to be _a shut- down in the pipeline. That means all of our differences are irreconcilable." Rollins agrees. The company can appeal a shut- down order, but the process takes time and can be expen- sive. "That's why it's such a potent weapon." The frustration of the last years is evident even in the field camps. At the Dietrich camp, south of ihe continental divide, supervisor Bob Swarthout says, "I never did think they wouldn't build it. Everyone who has been around the oil game knew there was a shortage, and they weren't go- ing lo let thai oil lay oul Ihere." Swarlhout, 52, lias been in conslruclion since he joined the Alcan highway project in 1941. "I've built roads all over Alaska, and I can'l see where any of them did any harm lo the environment, and some of them even improved it." Pay is high, even for road- work. A common laborer makes about for a seven- day, 78 hour week. He takes time off when he wants it. Salaried men are usually on eight weeks, off two. While Swarthout talks in the camp cafeteria, the cook throws thick sirloin steaks on the grill, and the 70 men begin to line up for the evening meal all they can eat. Eventually over 900 men will live and work here, part of the who will be hired, mostly in Alaska, to build road and pipeline. A dozen companies have tried to make a fast buck over the prospect of pipeline jobs. The truth is that jobs are just not available. Some 200-300 families have come to Alaska, lured by promises of work. Frequently they don't have the money to go home again. Success, so long sought, has its drawbacks, and many Alaskans worry about the pipeline project and the open- ing up of the state might damage the fabric of Alaskan life. At tiny Valdez, at the foot of the pipeline where a tidal wave .from the 1964 earthquake erased the original town, there are mixed emolions but on balance, optimism. PIPES waiting to be used in the Alaskan pipeline are stacked, crusted with snow and half buried in drifts, at Prudhoe bay. There are pipes in this stockpile for 168 miles of the four-foot-diameter pipeline, which will hove a total length of 789 miles. The rest of the pipes to be used are ready and waiting in two other stockpiles, in Fairbanks and Valdez. Cedar Rapids School Of Men's Hair Styling proudly announces Ilial Utc Murphy has won Unrl Place in the student competition for Men's Hair StylliiK A.M.U.K.A. Stale Hiirhor Convention in Waterloo, May III, HIM C.R. School of Men's Hair Styling .1211 '2nd Ave SK 1 OPEN TODAY 1 SUNDAY 1 1 lo 5 p.m. WE WILL BE CLOSED 1 MEMORIAL DAY I MAY 17 I BUY YOUR LA-Z-BOY CHAIR FOR FATHER'S DAY, SAVE UP TO DISCOUNT FURNITURE M I I I I 1 Land sold at a nickel a square foot three years ago. Today the price is a dollar. The oil terminal will be icroLis the bay from the new town of Valdez, and 400 miles of pipe are already stacked partly on the site of the old town. The pipeline people aren't here yet, but they are on their way, along with some of the prefab homes that will house them. Probably the most graphic way to explain what will hap- pen to Valdez is the telephone book. Now 26 pages, it will ex- pand to 80. What people hope will not change is the. vivid landscape of Prince William sound, the deep clear waters, the arching green-toothed glaciers, the endless miles of Alaskan pine. In miniature, Valdez is the whole problem of Alaska and its pipeline the wondrous contentment of a people who have come to a rugged and beautiful land to harbor their own freedoms, the sudden influx of strangers and the need to lock the front door, the awakened hunger of en- trepreneurs, the new road thai will open thrfrozen north, the gnawing feeling that this last great wilderness will never be the same. Tues. thru Fri. 10 to 9 Sat. 10 to 5 Hwy. 218 Sooth; Cedor Rapids 33rd Ave- I GET THE JUMP ON RISING PRICES Only four homes available at the same low price of EAST VERNON HEIGHTS CONDOMINIUMS 3630 Mt. Vernon Road SE Model Open Sunday 1 to 5 PM or any time by appointment We urge you to inspect the furnished model. Each home unit offers two bedrooms, one full bath and two half baths, a large living room, all built-in kitchen, central air conditioning, wall-to- wall carpeting on all three levels and 14'x22' all purpose room. Brick con- struction with a mansard roof. Close to shopping, banking, churches, schools and bus. Financing is available if necessary. John Zachar, Jr. and Company, Inc., Eoaltors N.E. 366-3511 Evenings call 363-7893   

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