Northern Waters Task Force Report: Opportunities and Challenges

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 interest in the arctic region.

Chairman Reggie Joule of Kotzebue says the goal was to identify opportunities and challenges for the state.

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.

Among its recommendations,  the task force called for expansion of oil and gas development in the arctic – as well as for the state and federal governments to improve technology for spill clean-up.   It also suggests taking steps to improve the likely increase in marine transportation in the region;   and it calls for more fisheries-related research and monitoring.

Dilllingham Democrat Bryce Edgmon said the Task Force gave the public the opportunity to understand more about what is happening in the arctic before taking action on individual issues.

We saw first hand how much is going on internationally around the arctic.  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.  A lot of what we’re doing is help increase the awareness of all the stuff that’s happening around us in the world.

Commissioner of Environmental Conservation Larry Hartig pointed to the task force’s taking a look  at long-term issues.   He referred to them as “things that need to unfold.”

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.

As a mark of ending its assigned task, the group gave the current legislature a resolution establishing an Arctic Policy Commission to build on the findings released today.

The Task Force’s report can be downloaded here.

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