Northern Waters Task Force to meet in Kotzebue
June 21st, 2011 | Alex DeMarban
Shipping, offshore drilling, spill response and creating an Arctic deep-water port will be on the agenda when the Alaska Northern Waters Task Force swings through Kotzebue and Nome in early July.
The Legislature created the 11-member panel last year to address issues faced by the changing Arctic and propose ideas to manage northern waters. Members include legislators, Arctic mayors and others.
It's tasked with traveling to communities to hold hearings, and members are hoping to learn from the public during the group's upcoming trip, said the chairman, Rep. Reggie Joule of Kotzebue.
"We'll have conversations with communities, among ourselves, and have people bring us information," said Joule, speaking at The Arctic Imperative, a summit sponsored by Alaska Dispatch that's meant to bring attention to the Arctic.
The task force is also charged with investigating the idea of creating a joint commission of U.S. and Alaskan officials that can focus on Arctic policies.
The panel must deliver its findings to the state Legislature in January.
The group will be in Kotzebue on July 7 for an all-day meeting. It will meet the next day in Nome, according to a schedule at the House Majority's Web site.
Members, including state legislators, will discuss how to support development while protecting the environment, villagers and subsistence, Joule said.
The group will look at such things as how to work with other countries to manage commercial fisheries, if they open in the Arctic; how to ensure safe transportation as shipping continues to grow; and what infrastructure is needed to support new development.
In Kotzebue, the meeting starts at 8:30 a.m. in the assembly chambers. Public testimony runs from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. As part of the meeting, Statoil and Shell are scheduled to give presentations on their offshore drilling plans. State and Coast Guard officials will brief listeners on the oil spill response capabilities. Fran Ulmer, chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, will discuss lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Nome meeting starts at Old St. Joe's at 9 a.m. On the agenda will include a discussion by the state Department of Transportation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about deep water port sites; a presentation from the Coast Guard about the Bering Straits Port Access and Route Study and a vessel tracking program in the Arctic.
The meetings will be broadcast live on www.alaskalegislature.tv. Audio will be available for the broadcast coverage, and possibly video.
Alex DeMarban can be reached at email@example.com