May 19, 2004
The council, led by Renkes and attended by many local business leaders, discussed everything from construction of the natural gas pipeline, to timber development, agricultural issues and water supply.
"Something's got to happen! We have some trails to blaze here! We have declining supplies of natural gas and we'd love to move North Slope gas through our system to the Continental United States and the rest of Canada," said Minister of Energy Murray Smith.
Four work groups have been formed: aboriginal issues; energy and construction of the natural gas pipeline; transportation, tourism and economic development; and human resources, education and work force training.
"Considering the number of things we have in common with Alberta in terms of natural resource development, this is a marvelous opportunity for us to work together and learn what works for both governments," said Senator Fred Dyson (R-Eagle River).
President Orie Williams of Doyon, Ltd., agreed. "We're actually sisters and brothers, we have been for years and years," he said. "We're all northern people with the same concerns for economic development in an environmentally friendly way."
The work groups will focus on streamlining regulations, so construction and shipping can happen with greater ease in the future, according to Tom Irwin, Commissioner of Natural Resources. "The best things come from a strong foundation," Irwin said.
Not only will a rail system make construction faster, shipping will also be expedited and it will provide access for more tourists, said Fairbanks businesswoman and council member Linda Anderson.
"The independent traveler spends more money on vacation, and True North, the Alaska and Alberta marketing cooperation, can entice even more travelers through a rail system," she said.
The co-chairs are nominating members to each of the four groups, and will release names appointed to the groups as soon as possible.
Members are anxious to get started, and according to Alaska Railroad CEO Pat Gamble, "We're tired of talking, we're ready to dig dirt!"
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