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There have been some interesting presentations at the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) providers conference going on this week in Anchorage.  Sitting in on the Energy track today there were representatives from BIA as well as  Alaska Housing Finance Corporations and Alaska Energy Authority on a panel in the morning.  Energy efficiency, community development energy projects, and the possibility of the a natural gas pipeline were all discussed.

A gas line going through Alaska and Canada is still a hope for many.  Securing right-of-ways are always important ‘footwork’ prior to any project which tribal villages and tribal corporations may be consulted on if the pipe goes over their land; payments may be made for right-of-ways.  Another revenue opportunity for tribes that had mentioned by an BIA engineer is rock.  Sand.  That is, material for aggregate.  While gold, silver, oil, gas are all subsurface rights belonging to tribal corporations or the State, rocks and gravel under the surface belong to the landowner.  So in Alaska, where at this point the BIA does not hold tribal lands in trust (such as on Lower 48 reservations and Metlakatla, AK), the tribe can extract gravel and sand which has good cash value as a construction necessity when putting down the pad footprint to run a pipeline on.

So, while BIA does not hold the tribal lands in trust the message was they can provide technical assistance in setting up extraction and sales by Alaskan tribes.  Of course, it’s all about transportation.  The gravel and sand is used to make a stable base to transport North Slope gas; but also to get the gravel and sand to a pipeline footprint it is going to cost gas in diesel, time and drivers to haul it to the sites.  Ultimately then, it will may be proximity to roads, rivers, or coasts that determines which tribes can get the rock/sand to building sites at a  competitive cost.

Now those that remember when the original oil pipeline bill went through Congress in the mid ’70s it was a small interior village that pretty much put a halt through court action of the construction until land rights were sorted out (hence Alaska Native Claims Settlement  Act- ANCSA- was born).