Army Corps of Engineers denies ANS permit

The US Army Corps of Engineers denied a permit application from ConocoPhillips Alaska Inc. to construct a drill pad identified as CD-5 west of the Colville River Delta to expand the Alpine petroleum field on the North Slope.

By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, Feb. 8 --
The US Army Corps of Engineers denied a permit application from ConocoPhillips Alaska Inc. to construct a drill pad identified as CD-5 west of the Colville River Delta to expand the Alpine petroleum field on the North Slope.

A Corps statement said there are other practicable alternatives that would have less adverse impact on the aquatic ecosystem and still meet the overall project purpose in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

ConocoPhillips operates the field, which went on production in November 2000.

Following the corps’ denial of the permit, Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell said, “Just in the last 6 months, we’ve fought the federal government for tying up Outer Continental Shelf leasing, and for adding bureaucratic nightmares and costs with Endangered Species Act listings and critical habitat area designations.

“We’ve seen the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Environmental Protection Agency show reluctance to approve anything related to jobs in Alaska,” he said. “And then— first, by delay, and now, through their decision—Corps of Engineers continues to set back our nation's chances for economic recovery, domestic energy production, and Alaskans' prospects for jobs.”

Permit application
In December 2008, ConocoPhillips applied for permits under the Clean Water Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act to discharge fill material over 62 acres of wetland tundra to construct the CD-5 drill site pad, a 6.2 mile-long access road with three bridge crossings, two valve pads with access roads, and new pipeline support structures.

ConocoPhillips’ preferred alternative states that the drill pad would be connected to the Alpine field’s road system by gravel roads and a 1,425 ft bridge across the Nigliq Channel of the Colville. All three bridges and 2.5 miles of road would be within the Colville River Delta. The bridges would be used for vehicles, production pipelines, and utilities.

The Corps found that issuing a permit for the applicant’s proposal is not in compliance with guidelines that state “no discharge of dredged or fill material shall be permitted if there is a practicable alternative to the proposed discharge, which would have less adverse impact on the aquatic ecosystem, so long as the alternative does not have other significant adverse environmental consequences”.

Other alternatives with less environmental impacts could include horizontal directional drilling but would require new permit applications. These alternatives minimize impacts to the Colville River Delta, which is the largest and most complex delta on the Arctic Coastal Plain and drains nearly 30% of the North Slope, the Corps said.

The delta serves as habitat for approximately 80 species of birds, numerous fish, migrating caribou, and is within the subsistence hunting and fishing areas of the village of Nuiqsut. The delta also represents nearly 70% of overwintering fish habitat within the North Slope, the Corps said.

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