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Largest culvert installation project of construction season underway


August 11, 2005

ANNETTE ISLAND, Alaska - The largest culvert installation project of the construction season is underway. The finished culvert, situated on the northern side of the Walden Point Road project at the 19th kilometer from the starting point near Metlakatla, will be 19.5 feet wide and 144 feet long. The culvert will provide a channel for Chester Creek to run underneath the finished road.

jpg culvert installation

The culvert installation in progress at the 19th kilometer along the road.
Photo by Maj. Richard C. Sater, U.S. Air Force Reserve

Joint Task Force Alaskan Road's first sergeant, 1st Sgt. Edwin Arner, Missouri Army National Guard, is overseeing the project, working with a team of eight soldiers and extra help as necessary.

Arner expects the construction to take less than two weeks altogether. At this point, the pipe is more than halfway completed.

"We started out with one plate," he said, an 8-by-10 foot corrugated steel plate squared on the ground against a center line for accuracy. Additional plates were shifted into place with the assistance of an excavator. Each plate was bolted to the next to create the circular pipe, with 10 plates required to make the complete ring.

"We'll begin backfilling after the pipe is done," Arner said. Filling in around the pipe may not be completed until next year. Ultimately, the road itself will be redirected across the top of the completed culvert.

jpg Jake Collins

Sgt. Jake Collins, North Dakota Army National Guard, tightens bolts on the new culvert.
Photo by Maj. Richard C. Sater, U.S. Air Force Reserve

An Air Force Reserve RED HORSE (Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer) team was initially scheduled to install the culvert in July. A delay in shipping the culvert kit from the manufacturer in Kentucky led to a cancellation of the team's participation. Arner volunteered to manage the project himself, with a hand-picked team from the JTF operations section, augmented with volunteers.

Edwin Arner

First Sgt. Edwin Arner, Missouri Army National Guard, bolts two culvert panels together.
Photo by Maj. Richard C. Sater, U.S. Air Force Reserve

jpg Duane Score

Spec. Duane Score, North Dakota Army National Guard, tightens bolts on the new culvert.
Photo by Maj. Richard C. Sater, U.S. Air Force Reserve

The culvert is "the second-largest so far" for the road project, he said. A 24-foot-wide culvert was installed during the last construction season.

This seasonal project is in its ninth year, a continuing effort to make good on a 60-year-old promise by the Alaska Road Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers to the island's Metlakatla Indian Community.

A joint force of Reserve and active-duty component troops - Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps - is building a 14.5-mile road through rugged terrain on this island, Alaska's only federally recognized Indian reservation. When completed, the road will connect the town of Metlakatla with the new ferry boat dock on the north end of the island that will provide quick and easy access to Ketchikan, Alaska's fifth-largest city, across the bay.

Approximately 12 miles of road are under construction in various phases, with military teams clearing the land and then drilling, blasting, filling, compacting, and installing culverts in preparation for final surfacing, which will be handled by the Federal Highway Administration. This year's training operation is scheduled to run until late September. Construction units began rotating in late April every two weeks and will run through late August to accomplish this year's mission.

The U.S. military participates in the project under the Innovative Readiness Training Program administered by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs. IRT is designed to promote civil-military cooperation through projects that contribute to, and enhance, military unit training and readiness and fill a need that is not otherwise being met.

The road was originally proposed circa 1946, when a route was surveyed by the Alaska Road Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers, according to information provided by Sol Atkinson, spokesman for the Metlakatla Indian Community. Though the route was surveyed two additional times, the road project itself was not undertaken until 1998 under the Innovative Readiness Training Program (IRT) program.

United States Pacific Command designated Alaskan Command, located at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Anchorage, as Joint Task Force Operation Alaskan Road. The Alaskan Command has overall responsibility for managing the program. In turn, the JTF designated a Joint Force Engineering Component Command (JFECC) to lead the engineering and support operations on Annette Island. The Missouri Army National Guard fills the key leadership positions and provides engineering expertise. The Federal Highway Administration is responsible for road design, civilian contracts, and quality assurance. The success of the Joint Task Force Operation Alaskan Road is dependent on support from many other federal and state agencies and sources.

To date, more than 9,700 military service members have participated in the project.

Source & News & Photographs:

U.S. Air Force Maj. Richard C. Sater
Joint Task Force Alaskan Road


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