A Native-owned fuel distributor announced today that it's building a $3 million barge -- capable of docking in shallow water -- to serve Western Alaska villages.
The "Cauneq," a 162-foot barge, is now being built in Portland, Ore., says NorthStar Gas LLC.
NorthStar will own the barge, while Anchorage-based Delta Western, a major distributor of fuel and other petroleum products around the state, will operate it.
The region is already served by barge, though low water or early freeze up can delay deliveries. It's unclear exactly which villages the new barge will stop at beginning this May.
NorthStar chief executive Elaine Brown expects it to serve the upper Kuskokwim River as well as the region northwest of Bethel that includes Nunapitchuk, Atmautluak and Kasigluk.
"This may be the first of a fleet of barges," Brown said.
I'd like to hear more about what this move means for village fuel prices and competition among companies that deliver fuel to remote Alaska towns and villages, such as Crowley.
NorthStar is pitching the new barge as a way to "stabilize" fuel transportation costs in Western Alaska. Chairman Matt Fagnani says that could mean lower prices through reduced transportation fees.
NorthStar Gas is owned by two regional corporations -- Calista Corp. and NANA Development -- and 16 village corporations.