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Ketchikan is accustomed to far-away places affecting its economy.
It was the case since the beginning of a Southeast Alaska timber industry. Before that, fishing and mining interests dealt with federal interaction. Still do.
With that in mind, the First City can relate to the Alaskans living in the Arctic when it comes to development there. Economic development is coming and will be increasing throughout the next decade at least.
Steps are being taken to ensure that the people living in the Arctic will have the opportunity to weigh in on federal science and policy in the Arctic.
The proposed federal Arctic Policy Act is written to provide for that. It would establish the Arctic Executive Steering Committee within the Department of Homeland Security and streamline agency coordinating in regard to a plan for the Arctic. It also would give Arctic residents a seat at the table when it comes to Arctic policy development. Tribal advisory groups would be formed. Plus, two more spaces would be made for indigenous representatives on the Arctic Research Commission, which, in part, studies Arctic climate change.
Meanwhile, the proposed federal Shipping and Environmental Arctic Leadership Act speaks to upcoming activities in the Arctic. It would establish an Arctic shipping union focused on safe, secure and reliable Arctic seaway development, ensuring international cooperation in the Arctic. NOAA, the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Coast Guard, the state, Alaska’s businesses and coastal communities, and Alaska maritime labor organizations would be involved.
The union would be responsible for establishing a system for maritime shipping fees to cover infrastructure costs in the Arctic, and it would be given authority to provide for protection of the Arctic environment.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski presented the acts, which Sen. Dan Sullivan also supports. The acts must wend their way through Congress and to the president’s desk yet.
The acts speak to the future of the Arctic, the nation and even Ketchikan, as it is not only part of Alaska but on the path for ships and supplies bound for the Arctic from the Lower 48. Ketchikan is the first Alaska city on the way to the Arctic. There’s a role to be played geographically.
That role will be defined as the United States advances economically in the Arctic, and that advancement should be with the participation of the people who call the Arctic and Alaska home.