The Alaska Northern Waters Task Force has given the legislature its findings and recommendations on the effects of climate change in the Arctic – and how the state fits into national and international interests in the region.
Task Force Chair Reggie Joule of Kotzebue says the goal was to identify the state’s opportunities and challenges in the Arctic.
“It’s not like Alaska has been absent. I want to make that clear. But it was a way for the legislature – using people from the administration and the public to get together and use this task force – getting some information and what are some of the things we should look at,” said Joule.
The report calls for expansion of oil and gas development in the Arctic, as well as improvements to cold-weather spill clean-up technologies. It also says the state and federal governments should address the likely increase in marine transportation through the region. More research, including studies of Arctic fisheries, is also one of the recommendations.
Dilllingham Democrat Bryce Edgmon says another goal of the Task Force was to educate the public on international Arctic issues.
“That the Russians have a goal of 2018, 2019 of transporting LNG from Russia to market in the Orient. The Chinese are building a nuclear icebreaker. A third of the world’s hydrocarbon deposits may lie in the Arctic. And in the Bering Straits choke point may be hundreds of mid-size, large-size vessels full with hazardous substances going through this very narrow point,” Edgmon said. “A lot of what we’re doing is help increase the awareness of all the stuff that’s happening around us in the world.”
State Environmental Conservation Commissioner Larry Hartig says the task force took a long-term look at these issues.
“If we recognize where we might be at ten years from now and we think hard about it, then we can start planning what we should be doing over that next ten years to take advantage of that time, so that if and when we get to development, we can do it as safely as possible,” said Hartig.
Besides handing over the report, the task force also gave the legislature a proposed resolution establishing an Arctic Policy Commission to build on its findings.