SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

2020 Southeast Alaska Conference

By Austin Otos


October 04, 2020
Sunday PM

I had the opportunity to participate in the first virtual Southeast Conference via Zoom. I was able to attend committees on: energy, timber, mariculture, and the University of Alaska Southeast. Also in the line up, a report from U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski on federal legislation for the new congressional year and a panel discussion comprised of Southeast state legislators. The first committee I attended was on energy in Southeast and the work that is being done in diversifying energy generation and connecting southeast through electric grids like the Swan-Tyee intertie system. I found it pertinent to attend this session due to Ketchikan’s past energy issues with long draught periods during the summer months and the impacts that has on our hydroelectric system. The committee focused on the strengths of Southeast’s energy: abundance of hydropower, biomass capabilities, and new innovation technology such as tidal or wind. Some of the barriers to energy are: high infrastructure costs, small loads/demands due to population, and lack of electric grids between communities. It’s important for Southeast to upgrade its power grids in order to meet future demands of electric cars, transition from diesel to electric home heating, and battery storage technology.

When talking about economic diversification we often overlook our reliance on the ocean. Fisheries, particularly mariculture, have a huge potential of becoming a viable industry in Southeast because of our vast coastlines and clean water. Since the KGB has an investment in the mariculture industry via Oceans Alaska, the partnership between local government supporting and jump-starting the industry is already there. Innovative businesses like Sea Grove Kelp/Premium Aquatics and Hump Island Oysters are producing value-added products that are being exported out of the region to other areas. The overall development plan ushered in by the Walker Administration called for $100 million industry in 20 years. Government partnership can help this industry by being a marketing vessel to build upon our trade relations with other countries that consume a large amount of our seafood.

Senator Lisa Murkowski gave an update on congressional legislation: Roadless Rule exemption, improving access between border cities, and disaster relief for the fishing and tourism industry. These issues are pertinent because of the KGB’s recent economic disaster declaration highlighting the need for federal support to offset COVID’s disproportionate economic impact on our region. The panel of all Southeast state legislators reiterated the need for state officials to keep a good working relationship with the Alaska congressional delegation in order to get disaster relief for our affected industries. In the next state legislative session, they stated that the number one issue dominating the legislature was finding a long-term fiscal plan for the state budget. They expressed the need to support Governor Dunleavy’s AMHS reshaping work group and the need for better rollout of the state CARES Act. Lastly, the UAS campus closure was addressed by acting UA President Pat Pitney. For now, UAS survived a merger with UAF, which saved crucial fisheries programs and local employment opportunities. However, going forward, the UAS system still has monumental budgetary and enrollment challenges due to COVID.

Austin Otos
Ketchikan, Alaska


About: Austin Otos is a Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly Member.


Editor's Addition:

Southeast Alaska by the Numbers 2020 - Click on the graphic to download and read the full 16 page report. (pdf)

jpg Southeast Alaska by the Numbers 2020 pdf



Editor's Note:

The text of this letter was NOT edited by the SitNews Editor.

Received October 01, 2020 - Published October 04, 2020

Related Viewpoint:



Representations of facts and opinions are solely those of the writers and do not represent the opinions of Sitnews.


E-mail your letters & opinions to
Your full name, city and state are required for letter publication.

Published letters become the property of SitNews.

SitNews ©2020
Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska

Articles & photographs that appear in SitNews are considered protected by copyright and may not be reprinted without written permission from and payment of any required fees to the proper sources.

E-mail your news & photos to

Photographers choosing to submit photographs for publication to SitNews are in doing so granting their permission for publication and for archiving. SitNews does not sell photographs. All requests for purchasing a photograph will be emailed to the photographer.