Calls lack of federal assistance for erosion control a "national shame"
March 04, 2008
At a Senate Appropriations subcommittee budget oversight hearing, Senator Stevens stressed that this interpretative rule would impact cruise ships making stops in Alaska and could crippled the economy of tourism-dependent communities in Southeast Alaska.
"That publication in the federal register was under the heading of 'Hawaii Coastwise Cruises,'" said Senator Stevens. "We were very surprised when it was published that it applied to cruises along the Alaska coast originating in Seattle. As a matter of fact, if that regulation is adopted, none of the cruises this summer can go to Alaska, because they all stay in Alaska waters for longer than 48 hours. The net result would be that all the cruise ships would move to Vancouver, because they could stay in Alaska as much as they want. Now, this is getting very close. It's two months ago now that I raised this with your people when you first published it."
Secretary Chertoff assured Senator Stevens that his Department would make its decision quickly and he would personally review any rule changes.
"We've certainly seriously taken on board the issues that you pointed out. I believe that a final version of this is being presented to the Commissioner for him to review and make a judgment on it," said Secretary Chertoff. "I will personally look at it before it goes out.I will make sure this thing gets out quickly. I took on board your view on this. I communicated that to the Commissioner. I think we will get this resolved very quickly."
Senator Stevens responded: "I hope so, because I think the bell is tolling on cruise ship activity for Alaska. That is substantially what's left of our economy in Southeast Alaska. The government closed down all harvesting of timber. The mines have been protested by extreme environmentalists. There is no economy left in Southeast Alaska except tourism. And they (tourists) all come in on these cruise ships."
Senator Stevens also criticized Secretary Chertoff for the Federal Emergency Management Administration's (FEMA) lack of assistance to rural Alaskans dealing with the effects of coastal erosion.
"I had an interesting meeting several weeks ago when I was at home with the State and with FEMA, and with the various echelons of the federal and state government to try and help these people," said Senator Stevens. "They are Alaska Natives. They're on barrier islands. They have been there for centuries. They don't want to move, but they may have to move. There is very little help forthcoming from the federal government for them, and I think it's one of the national shames. Because they're out there on those islands, there's not many of them. They're not in a voting center like New Orleans, but they've been just completely ignored."
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