Dunleavy calls on former Oil and Gas lead Feige for DNR commish

Gov.-elect Mike Dunleavy has made former state Division of Oil and Gas Director Corri Feige his pick for Department of Natural Resources commissioner Wednesday afternoon. He announced the decision Wednesday afternoon during a brief speech at the Resource Development Council for Alaska’s annual conference in Anchorage. Dunleavy called DNR one of the most important agencies in the State of Alaska and said Feige is “the perfect choice to lead it, especially given our shared vision to revitalize our natural resource sector,” in a formal statement. “She has a proven track record,” he said when talking with reporters. Her experience and her knowledge is phenomenal.” Feige led the Division of Oil and Gas within DNR for a little more than a year under outgoing Gov. Bill Walker. She resigned abruptly shortly after Walker’s administration settled a months-long stalemate with BP over the information the company would provide state officials regarding its plans to prepare the Prudhoe Bay field for a potential gasline project. For her part, Feige said Wednesday that “maximizing our resources and getting the state’s economy back on track” will be a primary objective for DNR under her leadership. “When our resource partners are doing well Alaska is doing well,” she added. As DNR commissioner, Feige will oversee the roughly 103 million acres of state-owned land as well as the energy, mineral and timber resources that are owned by the state. Dunleavy has hinted at a plan he's said will be unveiled soon to transfer more state acres into private ownership as a way to spur development. Most recently, Feige worked as president of The Castle Mountain Group Inc., an Alaska-based oil and gas consulting firm. Feige is a geophysicist and engineer by training and has held numerous other oil and gas related positions in Alaska government and the private sector. Her appointment is subject to confirmation by the Legislature, but Feige is generally well respected by individuals familiar with her work in state government. Last week Dunleavy announced former Gov. Sean Parnell would advise him on the $43 billion Alaska LNG Project during the administration transition. Dunleavy also said Wednesday that he has asked the Walker administration to "freeze" the implementation of new regulations until his team has a chance to review them. “Our goal is to pause any new regulations before our team has had the opportunity to assess whether they are needed or will hurt the economy,” he said.   Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected]

ASMI executive director Tonkavich steps down

After nine years with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, Executive Director Alexa Tonkovich has resigned. The organization announced Tonkovich’s departure Nov. 10, though she will stay on as executive director until mid-December while the board of directors searches for a replacement. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in international business and has been accepted to a number of programs in the U.S. and abroad, according to a press release. “After nine years at ASMI, the timing felt right to further my education and prepare myself for wherever the next steps in my career may lead,” she said in the release. Tonkovich became executive director in 2015, taking over for former executive director Michael Cerne. Previously, she served as the international director for ASMI. She worked primarily in developing emerging markets in southeast Asia and Brazil, with an office opening in the latter in 2011. She said the opening of that office as one of the most memorable moments of her time as the international marketing program. “I love market exploration and expansion,” she said. “There have been a few ups and downs (with Brazil’s economy) … we still see good potential there, particularly with the loss in access to the Chinese market (from retaliatory tariffs).” She plans to continue her studies in international business, which is a key part of the seafood industry. Depsite the recently souring global trade positions in the U.S. — the nation has been caught up in an escalating trade war with China over a set of tariffs implemented by President Donald Trump’s administration, including on seafood products — Tonkovich said she hopes it isn’t forever. ASMI has spent years cultivating its relationship with China, but there are potentially other trade relationships on the horizon, too. “I’m hoping this is just a passing phase,” she said. “…(International trade) really is such an important part of the (seafood) business.” For now, she said she’s looking to international business schools in London. The board plans to meet Nov. 19 to discuss appointing a candidate for interim executive director and drafting a notice for recruitment. ASMI Communications Director Jeremy Woodrow said in an email that the board members should have more details about the parameters of the recruitment after that meeting. “With a heavy heart, the ASMI board accepted Ms. Tonkovich’s resignation,” said ASMI board of directors Chari Jack Schultheis, the general manager of Kwik’Pak Fisheries. “Her dedication to Alaska and the Alaska seafood industry is unparalleled. While she will be missed, we also support her decisions and wish her the very best in what is sure to be a very bright future.” ASMI has gone through a number of changes in the past few years, particularly since the budget cuts began in 2015 as the state descended into a fiscal crisis. The organization cut expenses, closed its Seattle office and changed out staff, Tonkovich said. The industry has changed in her time at ASMI, too, she said — more women are moving up into positions of power, and more people of diverse economic, educational and cultural backgrounds are beginning to step in. In the future, innovation and product development will continue to be issues for the Alaska seafood industry to keep pace with the world, Tonkovich said. Addressing the graying of the fleet and bringing more young people into the seafood industry is an issue in Alaska as well as the rest of the world that needs to be addressed, she added. With a degree in Asian studies, Tonkovich said she didn’t originally seek a job in seafood, but is glad for the time she spent there. “I’ve been so honored and it’s bee such a pleasure (to work with ASMI),” she said. “I really grew up here … the organization is in great hands.” Times have tightened financially at ASMI. While the organization, a public-private partnership intended to market Alaska wild-harvested seafood, used to receive state funding, the Legislature has been working on eliminating its support from the general fund, zeroing it out in the fiscal year 2019 budget. This year, the organization plans to request an additional $3.75 million from the Legislature to support programs, according to an Oct. 30 news release from the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. The funds would go to support a match for competitive grant funding, according to the release. “Specifically, this appropriation would bolster the match on a federal grant program, which will strengthen ASMI’s annual application for federal funding,” the release states. “The competitively awarded federal grant for international marketing allows ASMI to market Alaska seafood internationally, funding consumer and trade programs in 30 countries. ASMI competes each year against such national stalwarts as Sunkist Growers, Washington Apples, the Cotton Council Incorporated, and the U.S. Meat Export Federation.” Elizabeth Earl can be reached at [email protected]

Movers and Shakers for Nov. 18

The Alaska Chamber announced 12 new members of its board of directors. Cory Baggen, vice president for Samson Tug &Barge, will continue to serve as chair of the 2019 board of directors. The new members are: Kari Ann Baker, attorney at the Law Office of Charles Evens; Richard Berkowitz, director of operations at the Transportation Institute; Damian Bilbao, VP, Commercial Ventures at BP Exploration Alaska; Larry Cooper, chief financial officer at TDX/Tanadgusix Corp.; Darlene Gates, President, ExxonMobil Alaska; Aleashia Huber, personal banker II/bank officer at Wells Fargo; Elaine Kroll, VP and senior industry specialist at Wells Fargo; Pam Long, broker/owner of Haines Real Estate; Robin Moore, sales &marketing manager at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center; Lucas Parker, project manager at Kuchar Construction; Deenie Robertson, Barge Division manager at Petro 49, Inc./Petro Marine Services; Tim Sullivan, manager of External Affairs at the Alaska Railroad. The Matanuska Telephone Association Inc. board of directors has selected Thomas Newman to fill a vacant seat. Previous MTA board member George Trabits resigned to pursue business opportunities. Newman’s professional experience includes surveying on and offshore, software development, project management and corporate management. As a founder and leader of TerraSond Limited, he has grown the company from three partners and a few part-time staff working solely in Alaska to a multinational company that has performed projects in 28 countries, with offices in several U.S. states and foreign subsidiaries. Newman has direct experience with a wide variety of technology for both land and marine surveys and has incorporated the latest technology available through three decades for surveying, positioning vessels at sea, and measuring the depth and character of the ocean. Newman has an MBA from the University of Washington; a bachelor’s degree from the University of Alaska and an associate’s degree from Anchorage Community College. Other members of MTA’s board are Catherine Fosselman, chief governance officer; Roxie Mayberry, secretary; Nicholas Begich III, director; and Larry Wiget, director. PDC Engineers recently hired Morgan Miller to serve as its new Proposal Specialist. Miller brings four years of A/E/C experience to PDC. She will soon be completing her bachelor’s degree in economics at the University of Alaska Anchorage and has ambitions of attainting her masters in project management, both of which having a focus on sustainable and economic development in Alaska. PDC has worked extensively throughout Alaska, serving over 250 communities, as well as globally, reaching Antarctica and Greenland. PDC specializes in the facilities, transportation, utilities, and land development services markets.

FISH FACTOR: Salmon harvest value drops but fishing jobs jump

Alaska salmon fishermen harvested 114.5 million fish during the 2018 season for a payout of $595 million at the docks. That’s down 13 percent from the value of last year’s salmon catch. A preliminary wrap up of the 2018 salmon season by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game provides summaries for every fishing region across the state. It shows that sockeye salmon accounted for nearly 60 percent of the total value and 44 percent of the statewide salmon harvest. A catch of 50 million sockeyes added up to nearly $350 million for Alaska fishermen. Chums were the second most valuable catch at $125 million and made up 18 percent of the statewide catch at just more than 20 million fish. Pinks accounted for 36 percent of the harvest and 12 percent of the value at nearly $70 million. Coho salmon comprised just 3 percent of the catch at 3.6 million fish valued at $35.5 million. The chinook salmon harvest of 234,614 fish was the lowest since limited entry began in 1975, with a value of $16.3 million. Salmon prices paid to fishermen increased across the board this year. Chinook salmon averaged $5.98 per pound, compared to $5.86 last year. Sockeyes averaged $1.33, up 20 cents. Coho prices at $1.34 increased 15 cents per pound. Pinks averaged 45 cents, an increase of 13 cents over last season; chum prices at 78 cents were up 12 cents per pound. The dock prices don’t include postseason bonuses and adjustments and the salmon harvests and values will change as fish tickets are finalized. Forecasts for the 2019 salmon season already are trickling in. At Bristol Bay, a run of just more than 40 million sockeye salmon is projected next summer which would allow for a catch of 26.6 million fish: 26.11 million at Bristol Bay and 1.49 million in the South Peninsula fisheries. ADFG said more salmon forecasts for the 2019 season “will roll out in coming weeks.” Fish watch Some major Alaska fisheries are winding down for the year, while others are still going strong. In Southeast, a fishery opened on Nov. 8 for seven different kinds of rockfish. About 170 divers are still going down for more than 1.7 million pounds of sea cucumbers, and more than 700,000 pounds of giant geoduck clams. The Dungeness crab fishery is ongoing and Southeast’s golden king crab fishery ended district wide on Nov. 13. Trollers also are out on the water along the Panhandle targeting winter king salmon. Pollock fishing closed to trawlers in both the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska on Nov. 1. Ditto for cod except for boats using longline, jig and pot gear. Boats also are still fishing for flounders and many other species of whitefish. Crabbers are close to wrapping up the four million pound red king crab fishery at Bristol Bay; likewise, the take of 2.4 million pounds of Bering Sea Tanner crab is going fast. No landings are reported yet for snow crab; that fishery typically gets underway in mid-January. Fishing for halibut and sablefish (black cod) closed on Nov. 7. For halibut, 95 percent of the nearly 20 million pound catch limit was taken; for sablefish 79 percent of the 26 million pound quota was caught. Homer regained its title as Alaska’s top port for halibut landings, followed closely by Seward and Kodiak. The industry will get its first look at potential halibut catches for next year at the International Pacific Halibut Commission meeting set for Nov. 27-28 in Seattle. Finally, the state Board of Fisheries meets in Dillingham from Nov. 28-Dec. 3 to take up 47 management proposals for Bristol Bay commercial, sports and subsistence fishery issues. Fishing jobs jump After a steep drop in 2016, seafood harvesting jobs grew 8.3 percent last year, the most in percent terms among all Alaska industries. Harvesting hit a record in 2017 at 8,509 monthly jobs on average and jumped to nearly 25,000 jobs in July. According to the state Department of Labor’s November Economic Trends, salmon fishing jobs grew overall but varied considerably by region. The crab fisheries had the only employment loss. By region, harvesting jobs in the Aleutians jumped by nearly 20 percent, mostly through gains in groundfish catches. Bristol Bay’s fishing jobs also grew overall by 6.2 percent. The Southcentral region continued its trend of harvester job gains, adding 116 jobs for 7 percent growth. Southeast Alaska’s fishing jobs were up by 7.7 percent with halibut harvesting growing the most by150 jobs. Kodiak was one of the few areas to lose fishing jobs. While halibut and salmon harvesting jobs increased, losses in groundfish pushed down Kodiak harvesting employment by 81 jobs each month on average. The Yukon Delta also lost fishing jobs in groundfish and salmon for an overall decline of 12.7 percent. The November Trends shows that among all Alaska industries, seafood processing tops the list for injuries. A rate of 8.8 injuries per 100 full time workers is more than double for other Alaska industries, and is 1½ times the national average for food manufacturing. The magazine also spotlights the six small communities that make up the Aleutians East Borough. Fish moves Alexa Tonkovich is leaving the helm of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute to pursue a master’s degree in international business. Tonkovich has been at ASMI for nine years and has been executive director since 2015. She will leave her position in mid-December. After more than a decade as director of NOAA’s northernmost research lab at Kodiak, Dr. Bob Foy has been named as Science and Research Director for the Alaska Fisheries Science Center. Foy will be based at the Auke Bay lab in Juneau starting this month and will oversee nearly 500 employees at facilities in Seattle, Oregon and Alaska. Foy has gained international recognition for his work on Bering Sea crab stock assessments and impacts of climate change on crabs and other marine organisms. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

AGDC project schedule calls for work to begin first-quarter 2020

The Alaska Gasline Development Corp. told federal regulators Nov. 6 that it plans to start building construction camps and access roads at the natural gas liquefaction plant site in Nikiski in the first quarter of 2020 and along the 807-mile pipeline route by the second quarter. The state-led project’s latest timeline still shows first liquefied gas production by fall 2024. Sticking to that schedule assumes the state corporation can sign LNG customers to binding long-term contracts, complete the deals to buy gas from North Slope producers, find investors and financing for the estimated $43 billion project, acquire the rights to about 900 acres of land in Nikiski, secure any state legislative approvals that may be needed, work through all the required federal and state regulatory authorizations, and reach terms with contractors and suppliers for one of the most expensive energy projects in U.S. history. LNG developments proposed along the U.S. Gulf Coast, in Canada and elsewhere in the world face many of the same issues. AGDC has been talking for the past year with Chinese interests about taking 75 percent of the Alaska project’s LNG capacity while financing 75 percent of development costs. No firm deals have been announced. The project’s latest schedule presented to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission also says work would start in early 2019 on relocation of a few miles of state highway in Nikiski to make way for the gas liquefaction plant and marine terminal. However, the state corporation leading the North Slope natural gas project lacks funding to buy land for the highway relocation or to contract for its construction. AGDC’s work schedule presented to FERC is not binding; it’s the corporation’s best estimate of what it wants to accomplish. Federal regulators on Oct. 2 asked for an updated project timeline to include in the draft environmental impact statement, or EIS, which is due for release in February 2019. But unless the Legislature appropriates additional state money or the corporation raises funds from other sources, the project could run out of funding by the end of calendar year 2019, about the same time FERC is scheduled to release its final EIS in November 2019, according to a spending plan prepared for the AGDC board’s Nov. 8 meeting. As such, the corporation is planning to approach potential investors in late 2018 or early 2019, according to a report at the board’s Oct. 11 meeting. The presentation for investors “will outline equity offer terms, methods of investment and commercial structuring,” according to the information given to the board. The corporation plans to spend between $3 million and $4 million per month in the current fiscal year that ends June 30, 2019. The project schedule submitted to FERC on Nov. 6 assumes the commission issues its authorization for construction by February 2020 — within the 90-day deadline after the final EIS. “The forecasted schedule for both the draft and final EIS is based on AGDC providing complete and timely responses to this and any future data requests,” FERC reminded the project team Oct. 2 when regulators presented the state with 63 pages of information requests. The potential for any new information requests will depend, commission staff told AGDC representatives at an Oct. 18 meeting, on whether the corporation’s information is complete or prompts follow-up questions. If AGDC and its partners move quickly to a final investment decision after receiving FERC authorization, the project schedule calls for site preparation to begin in early 2020 at the LNG terminal and later that year along the pipeline route. Sealifts of large production modules aboard barges to the North Slope would start in 2023. The state project team on Nov. 6 provided FERC with some of the additional information requested last month, as AGDC nears the end of submitting data needed for the draft EIS. The latest information included: • A list of 34 potential sites where four rock crushers would be set up and moved as needed to provide material during pipeline construction, operating 24 hours a day between eight and 49 days at each site. • The location, acreage, number of crew beds and duration of use for the 29 pioneer work camps that would be set up for initial site prep and access road construction along the pipeline route. Each camp would cover about four acres, with accommodations for 120 workers, with the first camps going in by the second quarter of 2020. AGDC plans to submit by Nov. 19 the final batch of information requested last month by FERC, including: • Additional details on construction plans to lay concrete-coated pipe across 29 miles of the seafloor from the west side of Cook Inlet to Nikiski. • Further information on potential impacts on permafrost during and after construction. • Additional geotechnical and geophysical studies of the feasibility of trenchless pipeline crossings at specific waterways. Larry Persily is a former Alaska journalist, state and federal official who has long tracked oil and gas markets and projects worldwide.

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