The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has issued a Department of the Army permit to the Alaska Railroad Corporation to construct the Port MacKenzie Rail Extension project.
The permit, issued under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, authorizes the railroad to permanently fill 95.8 acres of wetlands to construct a new rail line approximately 35.8 miles long. The new rail line will connect into the existing main rail line just south of Houston, Alaska, and end at Port MacKenzie. The existing mainline runs from Seward through Anchorage to Fairbanks.
Over the past few seasons, more than 4.7 million cubic yards of soil has been moved at the port, transforming into rail embankment and what will be the longest industrial loop in Alaska.
The permit requires compensatory mitigation, for direct, indirect and secondary impacts to waters and wetlands. As mitigation, the railroad will purchase credits in two mitigation banks in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, the Su-Knik Mitigation Bank and the Pioneer Reserve Mitigation Bank.
The permit includes special conditions to avoid and minimize potential adverse impacts and to compensate for unavoidable adverse impacts to the aquatic ecosystem and to ensure that the project would not be contrary to the public interest.
ARRC stated that the purpose of the proposed project is “to provide rail service to Port MacKenzie and connect the Port with the existing ARRC mainline, providing port customers with an alternative means of transportation between Port MacKenzie and Interior Alaska.”
The new rail line will carry bulk commodities.