Begich says Arctic development is Alaska’s future

U. S. Senator Mark Begich says Alaska’s future is in the development of natural resources in the Arctic — and increasing U.S. presence there.

Begich spoke Monday to a joint session of the Alaska House and Senate at the state capitol. It was his fourth speech to the legislature since he took office in 2009.

He said Alaska has the resources, people, ingenuity and location to make things happen.

“What we have is an enormous potential for us as a state. The question is, are we going to grab it and are we going to move it forward?”

Begich said the federal government is beginning to recognize its part in developing the Arctic. And although the state faces its share in federal budget cuts, it still is the highest recipient of federal investment – per person – of any state. He said a recent report showed that for construction, road and port maintenance, and defense, Alaska’s income jumped $4 billion in the past three years.

“Nowhere do we enjoy new opportunities more that with Alaska’s Arctic resources, oil and gas, minerals, fisheries, tourism, transportation, the list goes on and on. We can best seize these opportunities by working together to invest in our facilities and our education and our work force,” he told lawmakers.

Begich called for a combination of state, federal and private resources to develop the Arctic economy from Alaska rather than cede the leadership position to Russia, China or Canada.

“These countries are investing right now in deep water ports, ships, resources, mapping and more,” Begich said.

Even though China is not an Arctic nation, “they are busy acting like one,” he said. “They are seeking participation in the Arctic Council and building new vessels to supplement the Ice Dragon – their current icebreaker. Meanwhile, the United State still has not ratified the Law of the Sea, which provides us international framework to exercise our rights in the Arctic.”