• Two separate drilling operations will impact Homer economy, environment
By Naomi Klouda
Buccaneer Alaska’s drilling plans on East End and Cook Inlet proved a hot draw at Homer City Hall Monday night as people crowded in to hear the presentation from two officials.
Steve Lombard of Cardno Entrix and Mark Landt, an official at Buccaneer Alaska, outlined the permits obtained, spill prevention equipment and drilling schedules.
The oil and gas concern has leases in the U.S., Canada and South America. They are headquartered in Houston, Texas. Buccaneer’s parent company, Cardno Entrix, is located in Australia.
“We probably have one of the best records in Alaska for turning a drilling operation around,” Landt said. Buccaneer drilled its first well on the Kenai Peninsula earlier this year, and sold the gas to ENSTAR in a short window of time. This is called the “Walmart Well” because it’s located north of the mega store on the Kenai Loop.
Now the plan is to develop Cosmopolitan Unit 1 and 2 this fall, using the jack up rig Endeavor, which is an entirely separate process from onshore drilling. The vertical offshore wells will allow for penetration of shallow gas formations. One unit is off Nikiski and the other is closer to Anchor Point.
The rig is outfitted for spill prevention, and the company has obtained permits for work in the sensitive waters inhabited by the endangered beluga whales. They have received letters of concurrence from the National Marine Fisheries Service, the National Marine Protection Act and from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. They also will be doing a monitoring and mitigation program in compliance with the NMFS.
As for the safety equipment in case of a blow out or other accident, Buccaneer has an oil discharge prevention and contingency plan and is a member of the Cook Inlet Spill Prevention and Response Inc.
Landt said the company is training crews and contractors in regard to laws, regulations and stipulations. The rig can hold 115 workers, since its work is flexible for exploratory and drilling. In response to questions from the council, Landt said most of the workers will be Alaska hire. Archer Drilling is the contractor in charge of the hiring. They need to hire about 110 people, including vendors and contractors.
The unit for onshore drilling plans off East End Road is called West Eagle, which Landt described as 20 miles east of Homer, west of Eagle Lake. There’s more permitting work to complete before that operation. There also will be public testimony.
“We’ll be getting into active discussions with them (the public). And try to understand what impact we’ll have on their lifestyle as well as their land,” Landt said. The closest residents to the well are three miles away in a low-density area.
There are no plans to use fracking at any of the projects, Landt said.
Mike O’Meara was the only one to comment on Buccaneer’s plans. The board member for Cook Inletkeeper said, as he came down the hill and saw the Endeavor jackup rig in Kachemak Bay, it felt like a deja vu moment.
“It took me back to 1976 when I saw the George Ferris stuck and the tide coming in washing over decks. This one is big – it’s George Ferris on steroids,” O’Meara said. “It worried me. I’m here not to say ‘get it out of here.’ But when the city acts as a host for this itinerant industrial equipment, it’s up to you to oversee their visits and make sure it’s done safely and that there are no accidents. Make overseeing safety the No. 1 priority during the visit.”
The rig was expected to be at the Homer Deep Water Dock on Monday night to begin plumbing and electrical work. But permitting has delayed them. The Endeavour had been scheduled to be finished by Friday. A cruise ship arrives on Saturday, set to tie up to the Deep Water Dock.
• Another matter of much debate at the council meeting was what to do to make the intersection at Sterling Highway and Main Street safer: A roundabout or a traffic light? Most spoke in favor of the roundabout. A resolution failed, however, to hand over the project to the state for pursuing a solution.
“I’m excited about roundabouts. I’ve been to several European cities large and small. I have really enjoyed roundabouts I felt safer in them,” said Carole Hamik. “They’re more aesthetically pleasing; they keep traffic flowing. They’re fuel efficient.”
City Manager Walt Wrede, who said he also is a fan of the roundabout, explained the process. The Department of Transportation is applying for emergency money for dangerous intersections and estimates it will cost about $2.8 million for that one.
“If they get it, they’ll evaluate whether to install a traffic light or a roundabout. Homer can add to that. We believe they could get it done in three years or less,” Wrede said. “It is still speculative. They are applying for the money.”
Judy Marley also urged the city to seek a better, safer solution in the roundabout.
“It makes good solid sense, allowing traffic to flow continuously. Studies show 40 percent fewer vehicle collisions. There are less fatalities than the junctions they replace,” Marley said, because they eliminate head-to-head traffic, left turns and rights. At the center, Homer could build a fountain or sculpture for beautification.
Whichever plan is pursued, Frank Venuti urged the council to install a traffic feature that would eliminate potential bottleneck for traffic people coming out of Save U More, Napa Auto and other businesses near the intersection. Less expensive ways to solve the problem could involve right-hand turns only, making one-way streets of Main and Health Streets.
Councilmember Beth Wythe argued it is irresponsible on the city’s part to put off a solution, waiting for DOT to gain the funding and do the work.
“There have been several accidents in that area. I can’t think that we would do nothing,” Wythe said. She is advocating for the City of Homer to contract with an engineer to get traffic signal there.
• The council passed a measure that gives the Homer Hockey Association $10,567 to help purchase new Zamboni batteries. The Zamboni prepares the ice for hockey.
• The council heard a presentation by City Deputy Clerk Melissa Jacobsen and Deputy Harbor Master Matt Clarke. The city has begun a wellness program to cut insurance costs by preventing illnesses.
“We have been working several months for an affordable, effective program in an effort to save costs,” Jacobsen said. “This program recognizes employees for engaging in healthy activities. This includes families because they impact costs. Healthcare costs continue to rise. (Yet,) preventable measures would save 75 percent. The program measures progress to reduce claims, that’s where the best savings will be.”
High blood pressure, stress, obesity, diabetes and cancer risks can be prevented through a diet and exercise regime. The employee task force identified Virgin Health Miles, a physical activity system that encourages them to be healthy by being more active. It tracks the days and supplies a pedometer through signing onto a website. At least twice a week, employees would be required to plug in. The cost is $166.67 per employee but $90,000 could be saved in reduced claims in the coming years.
• Revenue: Regina Mauras, city finance director reported to the council that revenue assumptions for the 2013 fiscal year are slightly up. Sales tax came in $57,000 higher than projected. Prison Care at the Homer Jail also was increased to $637,216.
Other than those figures, revenue remains flat with last year’s rates. The water and sewer fund continues to run in the red and will require rate adjustments next July, Mauras said.
The Water Sewer Task Force assigned to look at a new fee applied to rental units that caused an increase up to $45 per month still has not reached conclusions. “We likely won’t have recommendations to the council until next spring,” said Wythe, who sits on the task force.
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