Transportation:

Environmental and Other Problems Along the Alaska Pipeline Corridor

EMD-81-69: Published: Apr 8, 1981. Publicly Released: Apr 8, 1981.

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GAO reviewed the environmental impacts of federal lands which contain the State of Alaska's haul road, parts of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), and a portion of the proposed route of the Alaska Natural Gas Transportation System. The objective of the review was to determine what negative environmental impacts, if any, have occurred on federal lands traversed by the State of Alaska's haul road and to assess the adequacy of federal and state efforts to mitigate present environmental damage and prevent unnecessary environmental degradation in the future.

Stipulations incorporated in the grant of the right-of-way issued to the State of Alaska for the haul road require that all operations be conducted to minimize environmental damage and to protect wildlife and human beings. However, GAO found that: (1) fish passage has been blocked; (2) erosion has threatened haul road integrity; and (3) the road is sinking as underlying permafrost melts. Improper road maintenance and inadequate culverts have contributed to these problems, some of which have gone unresolved for more than 6 years. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is responsible for monitoring adherence to the haul road right-of-way grant and has worked with the State of Alaska to resolve some of the environmental problems. Alaska developed a remedial action plan to correct some of the problems; however, the plan does not address all haul road deficiencies, and action on those which it does address has not been taken in a timely manner. The BLM land use plan for federal lands adjacent to the haul road is based on the short-term assumption that the haul road north of the Yukon River will not be open to the general public until completion of the gas pipeline construction. However, a recent court decision may result in the haul road opening as early as the summer of 1981. Under the present land use plan, few haul road facilities or services will be available when the road is opened, with consequent environmental damage.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct BLM to revise its land use plan for federal lands adjacent to the haul road and to take into consideration state plans for public travel in the near future.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct BLM to work with the State of Alaska in developing a plan which provides for the correction of haul road deficiencies. The plan should prioritize the improvements needed with preferred start and completion dates for each.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

 

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