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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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1/3/2014
It’s nonnegotiable

Southeast Alaska timber communities are expecting the next round of payments under the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act.

The Obama administration has decided against reducing those payments, a concern shared by Ketchikan and other timber towns.

The U.S. Forest Service decided in 2013 to calculate the payments into federal budget cuts. At the time, Alaska was asked to return about 5 percent of the timber payments it had received during the year. Gov. Sean Parnell refused.

The payments are made as a result of the decline in timber receipts on national forest lands. It is the federal contribution to help pay for schools, emergency services and other local services that the industry would have generated funds for if it hadn't been drastically reduced.

The payments weren't necessary when Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau and other communities in Southeast could depend on the timber industry operating largely on federal land.

The Forest Services manages more than 22 million acres of national forests in Alaska; most of that land is in the Southeast region.

The payments should become a nonnegotiable budget item. They came about with the decline of the timber industry; the industry remains a shadow of what it once was.