The Alaska Department of Natural Resources has not yet opened state lands on the North Slope to general off-road travel, Gary Schultz of DNR told Petroleum News today.
“Some approved vehicles can go on the tundra now,” he said, referring to rolligons, Tucker Sno-Cats and the new Tundra Cat, “but we’re waiting on snow to allow conventional vehicles out there.”
DNR oversees off-road travel for all state lands “between the Canning and Colville rivers within 120 miles or so of the coast,” he said.
“The current status is everything is very cold, the soil temperatures are all very cold, well below the minus 5 degree Centigrade requirement. We’re just waiting on some snow,” Schultz said.
Most ice road construction is under way. “They're making really good headway … using methods that take the low amount of snow into consideration,” he said.
“The farther west you go there is more snow. The Alpine area has pretty good snow, so they’ve been able to go forward with normal ice road construction there,” Schultz said, noting that even though there was some appreciable snowfall earlier in the winter, there has been a lot of wind, “so most of our state snow is out west on BLM land.”
Today, he said, DNR is “looking at seismic areas to give them site-specific approval based on snow cover.”
There are two North Slope seismic projects waiting for permission to travel off-road, both being done by Veritas, Schultz said. “One is in the Meltwater and Tarn area and the other out near Point Thomson. We have surveyors out in those areas checking snow depth. As of last week it looked like part of the Tarn area was okay — (in the vicinity of where) the Alpine ice road starts in the Kuparuk River unit. … So it looks like snow cover is adequate in some areas, and in some areas it’s too thin. We’re trying to find where the good snow is, so they can get started in those areas.”
Schultz said there has been light snow on the North Slope in the last few days, and “the forecast is for more snow, but they’re also forecasting 25 mile per hour winds.”