Severe Flooding Cuts Off Lone Road to Alaska's Oilfield
Alaska's lone road to North Slope oil field operations remains closed for the third time in two months while emergency crews continue to redirect flooding from an adjacent river, state officials said on Friday.
Alaska Governor Bill Walker's office said he would sign a second disaster proclamation while in Deadhorse, the base of operations for several oilfields, after a three-day tour of drill sites that included a fly-over of the flooded area.
Production and pipeline operations have not been affected by the closure, said BP Plc spokeswoman Dawn Patience, operator for the Prudhoe Bay field.
A 10-mile stretch of the Dalton Highway leading into Deadhorse shut down early on Monday morning and state transportation officials had hoped to re-open the roadway on Friday.
The Dalton Highway starts north of Fairbanks near Livengood, and receives heavy commercial truck traffic year round, but also a growing demand from tour companies during the summer.
High waters from the Sagavanirktok River, however, prevailed and delayed the opening into next week, state transportation department spokeswoman Meadow Bailey said.
"Right now we can't make any predictions on re-opening," Bailey said.
Of the 414 miles (666 km), nearly 80 miles now remain closed, she said.
Since Monday's closure, Bailey said water traveled farther north encroaching various camps and the Deadhorse Airport.
There were additional washouts farther south, prompting officials to extend the closure, Bailey said.
The series of shutdowns began March 30 for three days and again April 5 for another 10 days before commercial and private vehicles could use the road.
There are "serious logistical problems facing many businesses and private contractors" in the area, Walker's office said.
Causes for the closures date to last summer's heavy rains that underwent extensive freezing over the winter with sheets of ice trapping water and causing spring floods.
Crews made up of state and contract workers designed a trench system that drained water away from the road and into another waterway.
But the rapid spring thaw driven by unseasonably high temperatures created additional flooding, prompting another closure.
(Reporting by Steve Quinn in Juneau, Alaska; Editing by Eric M. Johnson)