Juneau, Alaska (KINY) US Senator Lisa Murkowski urged the Conference to stay involved in the rule making for changes to the Roadless rule in the Tongass National Forest. She also spoke of adding new opportunities for heli-skiing near Haines. She also spoke on further development of minerals in Alaska to relieve the dependence the US has on China.
She also congratulated Hoonah for adding a second dock at Icy Strait Point to accommodate larger cruise ships in 2020.
Murkowski said the Congress has also took up laws that assist the hydro power industry.
“There is a lot of activity going on in Southeast. I’m excited to work with you on ways to improve the southeast economy.”
Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources Corri Feige said 94-percent of southeast lands are federal lands with 78-percent in the Tongass National Forest and 16-percent in Glacier Bay National Park.
2.5 percent of southeast are state land that are managed by the Mental Health Trust and the University of Alaska. Alaska ranks as one of the top 10 mineral producers in the world. We have four percent of the worlds copper and lead, 8-percent of the gold, 6-percent of zinc, and 4-percent of the worlds silver.
There are 475 state mining claims in southeast. Alaska ranked second for mineral potential success in the world.
The Kensington Mine produced 113,778 ounces of gold in 2018. There were 886 mining jobs in Juneau. 92-percent of these are made up by Kensington and Greens Creek Mines. Greens Creek produced 9.953 million ounces of silver, and 51,483 ounces of gold in 2018.
Kensington has proposed to expand the operation.
The Division of Forestry will offer approximately 33 million board feet this year, the full allowable cut. They are considering two long-term timber sales in southeast.
“The intent of those two sales would help to stabilize the industry and help the industry convert from old growth to young growth or second growth cuts.”
The draft environmental impact statement for changes to the Tongass National Forest Roadless Rule this summer. They state would like completion of the final rule in the summer of 2020.
“We are reviewing our policies and support the economies of southeast Alaska with natural resource development programs.”
Julianne Curry of Icicle Seafoods gave a presentation on the impacts of seafood on our economy.
The number of workers in the commercial seafood sector is 6,100. Processing employs 4,100 and there are over 1,100 support jobs.
The total economic impact is $706 million. Seafood is the largest private sector industry in the state.
Sitka had the busiest port with $121 million, Ketchikan had $93 million and Petersburg $83 million in 2018.
Max Stanley of Barnacle Foods spoke about their Coast to Kitchen project. They manufacture kelp and create salsa, pickles and dry seasonings. They distribute products throughout Alaska and the lower 48. They also have a retail outlet in Juneau.
“We have higher quality and a fresher product,” he told the Conference.
They plan to expand the product line and double production in 2019 while also expanding into the California markets.
He said visitors are looking for an authentic experience and Alaska mariculture provides that experience.
Stanley said there is huge potential for a mariculture industry in southeast Alaska. He said kelp and seaweed are grown worldwide, there is a demand for oysters, mussels and geoducks. Southeast Alaska has the ideal ecosystem and an existing infrastructure and workforce to kick start the industry.
There are 58 aquatic farms in the state, five hatcheries and seven nurseries. There were 16 applications for mariculture projects in southeast Alaska since 2017.
“We are primed to grow a prosperous mariculture industry in southeast Alaska,” he added.
Adam Zaleski of the Douglas Island Pink and Chum, said commercial harvest at the facility since 1979 totals over 40 million salmon with a value of $185 million. In the last five years sport fishing has harvested 44-thousnand Coho, 17-thousand sockeye and 9 thousand king salmon.
In 2013 an economic impact study on DIPAC included the employment of 1,235 workers, $25.7 million in labor income, $10.8 million for commercial fleets, $9.4 million in processing and $1.6 million for sport fishing.
In 2018 the McDowell Group did a region-wide study on contributions between 2012-2018 showed an average of 222 million pounds of hatchery salmon with an average value of $120 million.
In southeast, between 2012-2016 hatcheries employed an average of 1,975 workers, with a labor income of $90.7 million and an economic output of over $237 million.
The DIPAC board has also funded 44 scholarships for college and technical training since 2011 with a total value of $447,0000 since 2011.
The DIPAC visitor center hosted more than 77,000 tourists in 2018.
Michael Rovito of the Alaska Power Association said APA members are focused on renewable energy that is economically feasible. Another priority is holding rates down for fuel, taking advantage of new technology and diversifying generation sources.
He said they’ve also increased investment in cyber security.
“You would be amazed at the amount of cyber attacks on small utilities.”
Many members have switched to smart meters to improve operational efficiencies, increase consumer control and lower costs.
The APA also wrote the US Forest Service to advocate for a complete Alaska exemption from the Roadless rule.