KGB Assembly report on Southeast Conference
By Austin Otos, Grant Echohawk and Jeremy Bynum
September 30, 2022
During the natural resource panel we heard from industry heads in timber and mining. Ucore is still in the process of building a facility in Ketchikan for first stage mineral separation that has been postponed till 2024. On the whole, timber jobs have been down for the year but a shift towards second/young growth harvesting, which was recently announced by the Forest Service, could help alleviate the industry transitioning out of old growth logging. The marine transportation panel celebrated the Inter-Island Ferry Authority (IFA) 20-year anniversary and their future outlook on building new vessels. The AMHS system has been modernizing its operations with the creation of the state Marine Transportation Advisory Board, which allows for long-term planning outside of DOT operations. Both the AMHS and IFA are looking into new battery and electric technologies to improve vessel range efficiency and capability. AK Airlines also announced the building of new airline infrastructure in outdated terminals in Petersburg, Wrangell, and Sitka.
Since Alaska is one of the states that will be benefiting the most from the federal infrastructure bill, Southeast Conference focused mainly on the work that is being done by the Alaska Municipal League (AML) operating as a resource guide for local government to access the infrastructure money. The key take away is local and state governments need to know their infrastructure priorities and plans in order to apply for federal funds. The infrastructure bill has contributed to expanding broadband capabilities in the region with Alaska Power and Telephone (AP&T) applying for grants that have brought in tens of millions of dollars in new underwater broadband fiber to rural communities on POW. Our own public utility company, KPU, plans on partnering with the community of Metlakatla to install an underwater fiber and electric line to interconnect the two communities. A major advancement in the visitor industry this year was highlighted in investments by tribal organizations at new cruise ship facilities in Klawock on POW and a private company investment in expanding the cruise ship port of Whittier. The greatest highlight of the conference was the announcement of a $49 million investment through the federal government to bolster the regional mariculture industry, which will aide in building upon Alaskan value added products and increasing domestic manufacturing.
Received September 29, 2022 - Published September 30, 2022
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