Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Enough Already

There has been a lot of focus of late on the gas pipeline not having a start date on the construction of the gas pipeline. Some of the focus has been by some who I respect greatly.

However, their notion that there can be a startup date on the construction of the pipeline is naïve.

Our own experiences teach us things and those experiences allow us to evaluate situations.

And as such, when you run for political office many who run like to show their credentials that may apply only to politics.

For myself, my own experience has taught me that when involved in construction, many events can take place that can stall a construction process.

I will take one event that I have come to know and apply it to a project that is a gazillion times more risky and costly.

Case in point:

I had owned a one half acre lot on the hillside. It was a piece of property that had transferred owners because it had a problem with a high water table.

I bought it for well below what I thought was the market value of the property. Overtime, I could not afford the taxes and I sold it to a builder who I know very well.

I had believed that a house could be built on it. But before selling it to the builder, I had put the property up for sell. One prospective buyer had put down earnest money and had an engineering firm look at the property.

The engineering firm found surface water in a ditch across the street that was within 100 feet of where the septic field could be built. The law governing surface water and septic fields is in Alaska statute for the DEC.

The engineers report stated that a house could not be built on the lot. End of story on the sell.

However, I disagreed with the engineers report. I believed that a house could be built.

So I met with the builder and sold it to him. This was done last April.

Before buying the lot, a “perc” test was done on a piece of the property.

To get the “perc” test done, he had to wait weeks for the engineer to get to the site and test the test holes that were dug. Then he had to wait for the design of the septic field and the well placement and for the “as built” survey for the septic field and the well and the house.

A few months went by and the “perc” test was complete.

Meanwhile I told the builder earlier that a curtain drain should be built. For those who don’t know, a curtain drain is basically an impermeable membrane that is buried in a trench with rock and plastic pipe that drains the water away from the lot.

This was done to “dry out” the property. The builder had to get right-of-way permits and present a design to the city on the curtain drain. This took a few weeks. Once this was completed, the builder had to wait until the road restrictions were taken off the roads so the work on the curtain drain could be done.

Once the road restrictions were taken off, the builder had to wait on the excavator because the excavator was busy.

Meanwhile, the builder had a loan to build a house and interest was accruing on the construction loan.

Once the curtain drain was done, the city stated that they wanted to wait until October to check the test holes. Interest is still accruing.

Finally, the builder shut down the construction loan because the interest on the loan was adding to the cost of the construction project. End of project for the time being.

The city finally checked the test holes and approved the “perc” test.

Everything looks fine. Wrong.

The city wanted to know what is going to be done about the surface water that drains away from the property in the ditch that is uphill from the property, across the street but is within 100 feet of the septic field design for an Advantex septic system.

The builder gets with the engineer after a few tries and a few months later and designs a “sock drain” system for the ditch so a permit can be issued.

More money spent on permits and designs. More money is going to be spent on developing the lot to comply.

It is now over one year later and over $70,000.00 of expenses and not even a footing has been set.

The point here is that this is a project that is the size of an atom when compared to the gas pipeline project and the problems faced cannot compare to the problems and risk involved with a project that will span across wetlands, streams, Native lands and another country.

One year has gone by and the builder can now start to build.

For those who expect the Oil companies to guarantee a start date , you are being naïve, and I say this to some I respect greatly.

The Oil companies are willing to risk millions of dollars on permitting fees. And they do not know what will lay ahead for them.

Like the builder who encountered delays and costs not seen in this whole process. The Oil companies will see 100 times more risk.

Next time you look at a house, think about the costs involved and the permitting process, then maybe you will appreciate what the Oil companies are looking at in a project of this magnitude.

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