Ahtna and Alyeska: A Shared Vision That Led To Opportunity And Success

Published April 2017

A special relationship that spans four decades

By Tom Barrett
President, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.


The story of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) for the past 40 years has fundamentally been a story of hard-working people and deep business partnerships, grounded in shared visions of opportunity and success. Ahtna has been among Alyeska’s most important partners, going all the way back to construction and startup. We cross your lands and we both benefit from a long-standing, deep and memorable relationship.

Like Alyeska, Ahtna Construction and Primary Products Corporation have been in business for over four decades. Alyeska and Ahtna Construction and Primary Products Corporation both started operations during a formative time in Alaska’s history. Following the discovery of oil on the North Slope, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and the Pipeline Authorization Act combined to create new opportunities for Ahtna shareholders and all Alaskans.

In July 1974, Alyeska and Ahtna launched a unique and special partnership by entering into an Omnibus Agreement that gives each other reciprocal benefits and creates special opportunities. Subsequently, Ahtna Construction, in a joint venture with Trans-Alaska Engineering Company, began construction of the pipeline, laying the first section of pipe on March 27, 1975 at Tonsina River.

On March 27, 1975 Ahtna Construction workers installed the first piece of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System at Tonsina River. Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. photo

We appreciate that the TAPS right-of-way crosses 55 miles of fee simple/title Ahtna lands. This includes the four Ahtna villages of Gulkana, Gakona, Tazlina and Kluti-Kaah. TAPS also crosses the Gulkana, Klutina, Tonsina and Tazlina rivers, which in turn flow into the Copper River. Also in the Ahtna region, TAPS scales formidable Thompson Pass in the Chugach Range. Some 197 miles of TAPS are within Ahtna’s traditional areas. Thank you for sharing your lands with us.

In the 42 years since first pipe was laid, the tireless efforts of the Ahtna people and their deep knowledge of their region’s lands have benefited TAPS operations. The significance of our connection is honored with a special signing of a renewed Declaration of Friendship any time there is a major leadership transition at either company.

Today, Ahtna Construction performs work all along the 800 miles of TAPS – from civil construction to pipeline maintenance to emergency preparedness and oil spill response. Specialized work has included supporting mainline integrity investigations, high-point vent investigations and cathodic protection improvements – work that’s critical to the system’s safety and reliability and our shared commitment to environmental protection.

Ahtna shareholders help staff TAPS’ Glennallen Response Base. Several Ahtna families have had three generations employed on TAPS. This statistic speaks to the real opportunities afforded to the region’s people through the pipeline, and affirms that Ahtna shareholders are true contracting partners invested in TAPS’ success.

In addition, many of Ahtna’s leaders of today played critical roles early on during the Omnibus Agreement negotiations and pipeline construction. They worked with Alyeska to ensure that special consideration would be given in contracting and Native hire opportunities. Four decades later, they continue to serve and work in Ahtna’s best interests. Current Board Chairman Nicholas Jackson and Directors John Craig and Roy Tansy Sr. were involved in those early days, and we thank them for their steadfast commitment, valuable insights and lasting partnership.

The long-term health and sustained safe operation of TAPS is critical for our economy and for all Alaskans. And our contractor business partners, 75 percent of which are headquartered in Alaska, are critical to TAPS sustainability. Along the pipeline, we often celebrate that TAPS teamwork excellence.

On TAPS, we are focused on the safety of our employees and our facilities, protecting our environment, and on innovative efforts to move our producers’ oil more efficiently in a tough business environment. l know many of the same conversations are ongoing at Ahtna, where employees are focused on providing safe, environmentally responsible services and long-term goals that support reliable and cost-effective pipeline services that benefit Ahtna and its shareholder-owners.

That close collaboration with shared goals and visions can fuel us into the next 40 years of operations. We look forward to continuing our special relationship, maintaining our commitments and delivering on our shared vision long into the future.

When first oil flowed into the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System on June 20, 1977, it was the close of one chapter for Ahtna and the beginning of another. Ahtna Construction laid the first section of pipe on March 27, 1975, at Tonsina River and continues to be a prime contractor for Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. today. This special partnership has helped ensure the safe passage of the more than 17 billion barrels of oil that have moved from the North Slope to Valdez. The pipeline is also part of our region as it passes through 197 miles of lands we have traditionally used, 55 miles of Ahtna-owned land and four of our villages. This year we celebrate the 40th anniversary of first oil and our long-standing relationship with the pipeline and its operator.