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Hydropower is gold in Southeast Alaska. With that, a $20 million loan for a new hydropower project on Prince of Wales Island is like striking gold.

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It's a bad decision on the face of it from a public perspective.

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8/28/2012
Our fair share

Ketchikan appreciates the U.S. Forest Service’s program that gives $308 million to support schools and roads in rural counties (or boroughs) nationwide.

Ketchikan and other Southeast Alaska governments participate in the Secure Rural Schools Community Self-Determination Act, which is authorized annually by Congress.

“Our support of schools and roads in rural communities is one of the many ways the Forest Service is helping to sustain and stimulate economic growth across the country,” says Forest Chief Tom Tidwell. “Opportunity for students and communities in rural America is directly tied to the future prosperity of our nation.”

Of course, this didn’t originate as government funds. It’s taxpayer-provided funding distributed by the federal government, specifically the Forest Service.

Nevertheless, by whatever vehicle available, the local school districts receive a share that helps to reduce the cost of local government (again, taxpayer) contributions.

Counties and boroughs must alert the Forest Service no later than Sept. 30 of their continued interest in receiving the funds. At that time, and based on the number of participants, the Forest Service will calculate the amount to be awarded to each county or borough.

New this year is a requirement that the Forest Service be informed about how the funds will be allocated by the counties or boroughs. The funds may be used for public schools, road repairs and projects that help maintain and improve forest health.

The Forest Service has shared 25 percent of gross receipts from national forests with counties and boroughs since 1903. The receipts are derived from timber sales, grazing, minerals, recreation and other land-use fees.

The Forest Service manages 193 million acres of public land, which provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply. The water supply is valued at $27 billion each year. It receives more than $13 billion annually as a result of user fees.

Ketchikan and Southeast welcomes our fair share.