When I came into office, resolving the homelessness crisis in Anchorage was my number one priority. However, as my team and I assessed the dire situation at the Port of Alaska (PoA), it became quite clear that rebuilding and modernizing the Port had to become the chief focus of my administration.

Port of Alaska in Anchorage.

I know Anchorage residents, and folks across our state, have heard about problems at the port for many years. I’m not here to talk about past issues, mistakes made, or score any political points. I am focused on the future, ensuring food security for our state, and rebuilding our great Port of Alaska.

The PoA is the single most important piece of infrastructure in our state. Yes, we have the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, world-class mines, the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, and other critical infrastructure that support commerce throughout our state. But without the Port of Alaska, none of these would be possible.

Why is the port so essential to our economy and way of life as Alaskans? Here are a few pieces of information to consider when thinking about the Port of Alaska:

— 90% of Alaskans depend on goods handled by the PoA

— 50% of all cargo shipped into Alaska crosses the PoA

— Annually, the PoA supports $14 billion worth of economic activity

— It’s the only functioning tsunami proof port in Alaska

— 80% of cement used in Alaska crosses the PoA

— All aviation gas for the state comes through the PoA

Right now, 1,400 pilings supporting port structures are considered seismically unstable.

Unfortunately, the PoA is in dire need of significant repair and upgrades. Right now, 1,400 pilings supporting port structures are considered seismically unstable. Approximately 1,000 of those piles were reinforced with jackets in the past, but those repairs are nearing the end of their useful life. Cook Inlet’s harsh environment is rapidly corroding the piles and jackets. Recent engineering analysis indicates the docks may only have six to eight years left of remaining life before vertical load capacity restrictions would have to be imposed.

The 7.1 magnitude earthquake that struck Southcentral in 2018 caused extensive damage to the PoA. As a result of that quake, 20% of the pilings at our newest dock – built in 1974 – failed.

The 2018 quake lasted 38 seconds. Some experts have informed us that, had it continued for another seven seconds, widespread liquefaction could have occurred, possibly leading to a total failure and collapse of one or more of the port docks. Liquefaction occurs during an earthquake when the soil is shaken and mixed with enough water that it essentially becomes liquid, leaving it unable to support the dock.

To get us to food security, which is one seismically resilient dock, we need $600 million.

It is hard to underestimate the destruction that losing the PoA would cause for our state. Roughly 90% of the food we consume in Alaska is imported, the majority coming across the PoA. On average, grocery stores have less than six days of food on hand. If we lose the PoA in an earthquake, and Matson and TOTE are unable to offload their ships, no food will be available in a matter of days. A society without food cannot function. Every household and business from Anchorage, to Bethel, to Kodiak, to the North Slope oil fields would be impacted if the port fails.

Some have said that we could simply truck or fly in our food and supplies. This simply won’t be practical. Over 700, 747 cargo jets would be needed on a weekly basis to replace the food and goods that cross the PoA. As a former cargo pilot, I can tell you there aren’t enough idle jets in the world to fill that gap.

I know this is a stark picture to paint. I was just as concerned as you likely are when I learned of this situation. The time for addressing this problem is now. We cannot wait until a disaster happens to talk about fixing the port.

The good news is that we have a broadly supported plan and vision for how to fix the PoA and get us to what I call food security for Alaska. There are two cargo docks at the PoA. Food security requires we have one-seismically resilient dock that can off-load goods and supplies like clockwork. Currently, we don’t have food security as both docks are seismically unstable.

The technology exists for us to construct seismically resilient cargo docks. The Petroleum and Cement Terminal, which will be fully completed this spring, withstood the 2018 earthquake by utilizing modern engineering technology and design. Our plan for the cargo docks will mimic this same design and technology.

The entire Port of Alaska Modernization Program is a $1.6 to 1.8 billion construction project. To get us to food security, which is one seismically resilient dock, we need $600 million.

The Municipality of Anchorage is requesting $600 million from the State of Alaska to rebuild PoA cargo dock #1. The Assembly and port users are supportive of our plan. Recently, the Assembly and I approved a $165 million revenue bond to support this project. We have skin in the game; I am asking the Legislature and Governor Dunleavy to join in our efforts.

The people of Anchorage cannot do this alone. Alaskans must come together to fix the port once and for all. Our economy depends on it. Our way of life depends on it. We must save the port.

Anchorage Mayor: We must save the Port of Alaska to preserve our way of life

Dave Bronson
Dave Bronson serves as Mayor of Anchorage.


  • A. N. Gottschalk says:

    Alaska ports are critical to our overall, state economy. You will find people of varying political convictions who would gladly work with you to upgrade and maintain the Port of Anchorage: the Port of Anchorage is a state asset! All thumbs up!

  • Mongo Love Candy says:

    Building better facilities at a better location just across the inlet would make more sense and cut construction costs by at least 40%.

  • AlwaysinAlaska says:

    My only question is why the “Infrastructure” monies all 3 of our federal representatives voted for won’t pay for this……

  • jh says:

    Building better prisons?
    Did you know America has more prisons than any other country?
    Let’s build America prisons in China and send our prisoners there.
    Send the nut job prisoners there and let China take care of our problems.
    China and all other countries do not have this problem, people respect the law, they do not want to end up looking like a fiery piece of charcoal.
    I will contribute!!!!

  • Natural Alaskan says:

    Mayor, you said, “It’s hard to underestimate the destruction.” Are you really that stupid? How about, “It’s hard to overestimate?” It is hard to have confidence in you if you use words you don’t understand. There are other deepwater ports with railheads, that are far enough apart to not be disabled by a single earthquake. Also, food security means growing locally, not just importing more from Seattle. Since you wrote this after the governor’s speech, you obviously just see this as an opportunity to get more money for your political donors.

  • Proud Alaskan says:

    Empty food shelf’s for one week or more, there will be chaos in the streets. Just like Seattle and Portland.
    We’re Alaskans I’m hoping we can take care of our neighbors. With your summers harvest, berries, moose, salmon, canned garden veg, etc.

  • jh says:

    Ten years ago, the following video shows what a united democrat and a republican looked like.
    Today we have radical LUNATIC democrat NUT JOBS raping America!! We will stop it!
    Oct 10, 2012
    Google: Americans – a Public Service Film by Kid Rock & Sean Penn
    Warning: Harsh language

  • J says:

    Food security is built locally. The port is irrelevant if logistical or production issues persist somewhere else on the chain. For some reason this letter smells.

  • AK Pilot says:

    The Mayor is right with regard to the current situation, but the long-term solution to this problem is to increase local food production so we are less dependent on the port.

  • Herman Nelson says:

    Why? The port in the valley is a deep water port and does not require yearly dredging, unlike Anchorage.

  • Andy says:

    Alaska’s transportation system needs a rail upgrade into stateside/canada, we can put all our eggs into the port and I support its development for obvious reasons but we all know what happens when we place all our eggs in one basket

  • Di says:

    The port does need maintenance and upgrade due to none for years, a court case and results that the public has never ben apprised of and the law suit against the contractor has never made a public statement of any kind. All monies from the lawsuit has been sequestered away without any explanation to the state or boroughs. That would have been in the Berkowitz administration of which the present assembly is hiding from the public. Needs based port? Show me…and give the facts of the past 15 years what has happened to enlist the help of the public and the state and federal government again!!! Do we need this for food security? No!!!! That is Dunleavy’s idea in a moment of enlisting the public to worry about a problem not related to the history and theft of funds from the port problems today, but a campaign issue to his re-elction purpose. Show me……

  • Murry says:

    Feeding our city with locally grown food sounds great, but I suspect that we are a very long way from that goal. We need the goods that come through the port. Rather than reflexively sniping at the mayor, why don’t we have a conversation, get educated on this issue, then talk about what needs to be done?

  • Robert L Bowe says:

    We need more information. Is there a better place for a port? Can the Whittier port be better used? Trans Canada railway options. Will our federal representatives explain funding from massive build better legislation? I am pleased to see the Mayor leading the convesation.

  • Robert L Bowe says:

    Great idea. Give the citizens the full picture.

  • Robert A Schenker says:

    The trouble with Anchorage is it’s geophysical location. Anchorage sits upon a bowl of water soaked silt which amplifies the effects of an earthquake. One possible solution before we invest billions in an Anchorage Port upgrade might be to improve the protected deep water, ice free ports that we already have? Maybe improve rail and or truck routes between these ports and LosAnchorage? I dunno, just a thought…