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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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9/21/2013
Speak out

This upcoming week is an important for hunters and fishermen.

The Federal Subsistence Board will be meeting in Ketchikan, gathering comment in regard to how to determine which communities should be designated rural and which nonrural.

A rural designation provides rural residents opportunity to harvest fish and wildlife under subsistence rules. Since the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, subsistence hunters and fishermen are allowed a priority over others to hunt and fish.

Rural most often is thought of as outside of city limits, which given that Saxman is a city, wouldn't qualify it as a rural area. But the subsistence board has developed its own criteria.

Communities with fewer than 2,500 residents are considered rural. Depending on other criteria, communities with populations up to 7,000 might be considered rural. For example, defining factors might be how a community utilizes its fish and wildlife (think villages), its level of economic development, including its infrastructure, which would include transportation and schools. The board also considers where a community's young people attend high school, its access to a road system and whether at least 30 percent of its workers commute to another community for jobs.

In 2007 the board determined that most of Ketchikan should remain designated as nonrural. Saxman, meanwhile, and some other areas within the Ketchikan Gateway Borough that previously were designated as rural, were designated as nonrural also.

In the meantime, the U.S. Interior and Agriculture secretaries asked for a review of the rural determination process. That meant Saxman, in particular, has been in a holding pattern in regard to subsistence fishing and hunting. It's undoubtedly anxious for a ruling, which likely won't come for some time yet.

The Subsistence Board is holding hearings throughout the state.

It seeks public comment regarding the criteria it established in 2007.

Saxman and Ketchikan should weigh in, keeping in mind that what happens in one affects the other. The island has two cities and three local governments, but it's still one borough. As one it wants what's most fair and appropriate throughout.