When spring overflow from the Sagavanirktok River rose up and covered the Dalton Highway this spring, it cut off the only road connection to the North Slope--and some of the largest oil and gas developments in the state.
The road was closed for eighteen days while crews worked to divert the water and shore up the damaged thoroughfare. Flooding washed out entire sections of the highway, according to the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. Deadhorse was inundated. Governor Bill Walker declared a disaster, and industry partnered with government to coordinate the massive response effort. While the road soaked under more than a foot of water, the Deadhorse Airport operated around the clock to help support companies working on the North Slope. And for two-and-a-half-weeks they made it work.
The highway closure highlights the importance of Alaska's transportation infrastructure--or lack of it--and the critical role of the businesses that move freight across the state.
They travel by land and by sea. There are national corporations and small, Alaska-grown businesses that began in a backyard or home office. They use different terms to describe their work, but it all boils down to the same core mission: These are the companies that deliver the materials used to build Alaska.
For many destinations, shipping cargo over land simply isn't an option. Alaska's road system is sparse. In Western Alaska, it's all but nonexistent. But coastline and waterways come in abundance.
Alaska has more miles of shoreline than any other state in the union, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and hauling freight by barge can often be the most cost-effective method for businesses working in remote parts of the state. Trips take longer by boat, but it can be cheaper than flying and more accessible than driving.
After ten years as the logistics manager at Osborne Construction Co., Allyn Long knew the value of reliable freight expediting services. He saw an opportunity to go into business for himself. That was in 2003.
Today, Alaska Logistics provides barge services between Seattle and the Last Frontier. Besides ports in Seward, Dillingham, Bethel, Nome, and Naknek, Long's company serves communities throughout Western Alaska. More than one hundred of them have no docks, let alone a port. Combine the lack of infrastructure with the region's notoriously shallow waters, and marine freight companies have...