800 MILES TO VALDEZ: The Building of the Alaska Pipeline by James P. Roscow

800 MILES TO VALDEZ: The Building of the Alaska Pipeline

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Roscow gives the Alaska pipeline a glowing Eighth Wonder of the World treatment, following its erratic nine-year progress from the first feasibility studies to the system's start-up (which entailed the dismantling of 1,500 gas-heated outhouses, at $10,000 per) and the exodus of pipeline workers to the Lower 48. Bulldozing his way through environmentalist lawsuits, Roscow regards those who withheld right-of-way permits as obstructionists. Pipeline opponents don't get even a cursory hearing in what reads like a corporate history of Alyeska, its engineers, contractors, and consultants. The onus is on NEPA, the National Environment Protection Act, for placing unprecedented constraints on the builders and substantially adding to the cost of the project which, all told, ran to about $15 billion. To be sure, the job of laying 805 miles--or 4.25 million feet--of 48"" pipe, some of it buried deep in permafrost, some running above ground on specially designed steel stanchions, was an engineering marvel. And Roscow can write about stress factors, tolerance, thermal systems, and seismic controls with aplomb. He is a good deal less meticulous in regard to caribou, Dall sheep, and other Alaskan wildlife, being convinced that the ecology of the far north was not half as fragile as it appeared. A former editor of Business Week, Roscow provides a lot of geotechnical and fiscal data, but as a triumphal tale of man's Arctic conquest this doesn't make it. Too didactic and adulatory.

Pub Date: Nov. 18th, 1977
Publisher: Prentice-Hall