Alaska editorials

2/1/2016 9:45 AM
By Associated Press

Here is a sampling of editorial opinions from Alaska newspapers:

Jan. 30, 2016

Ketchikan Daily News: More than oil

Alaskans know the importance of oil to the state's economy and state government coffers.

No question. Oil is huge.

But with all the talk of oil, it's easy to overlook other parts of Alaska's economy

Commercial fisheries, for example. Fisheries anchored many Alaska communities years before the start of oil production. And, they've continued to do so after oil began flowing through the pipeline.

The continuing economic contribution of fisheries is perhaps more apparent in coastal Alaska communities such as Ketchikan than in the Railbelt and other areas that rely more heavily on the oil industry.

Ketchikan — the "Salmon Capitol of the World" — and other Southeast Alaska communities such as Petersburg, Sitka, Craig and Wrangell with long histories in fishing are especially aware of industry's presence.

It provides primary jobs in fishing itself, and supports many secondary jobs in support sectors. And, with the addition of shellfish and other non-salmon fisheries, the contributions of the industry now are year-round.

So, what are the economic contributions of Alaska fisheries?

Unfortunately, unlike oil, which seems to be quantified daily, fisheries' economic contributions are not so immediately apparent. Still, a report commissioned by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute and published in December by the Juneau-based research firm McDowell Group sheds some valuable light on the state and region economic value of commercial fisheries.

Statewide, seafood caught in Alaska waters during 2014 generated about $1.9 billion for harvesters. That seafood had a first retail value of $4.2 billion, according to "The Economic Value of Alaska's Seafood Industry" report.

Of the approximately 31,580 commercial fishermen active in 2014, about 17,600 were Alaska residents — and they had a total gross income of $735 million.

That's on the fishing side. The processing sector had about 25,000 workers with a total income of $460 million during 2014, while other jobs related to the industry added about 2,900 workers and an income of $204 million, according to the report.

Here in Southeast Alaska, seafood is the biggest private sector industry, states the report: "The seafood industry creates nearly 10,000 (full-time equivalent) jobs in Southeast Alaska, including multiplier effects, and almost $1 billion in economic output."

That's substantial. What's more, that's just commercial fishing and doesn't include recreational and charter fisheries.

The fish-focused activity along the coasts and rivers of Alaska produce a tremendous return for the state, not only in economic activity but in cultural and recreational aspects. With good management, we can look forward to these contributions to Alaska life for many years to come.

Oil is mightily important. The state government and much of the state's economic health depends on oil.

But it's good to recognize that it's not the only thing in Alaska.

___

Jan. 30, 2016

Peninsula Clarion: Careful negotiation the best way to meet goals

While we appreciate Gov. Bill Walker's effort in moving the Alaska LNG Project forward, we are left this week wondering if there might be a better approach.

On Wednesday, Walker laid out expectations for the project timeline and said he wants the state and producers to reach agreements on key issues before the end of the legislative session — a reasonable approach as the "predictable and durable" tax and royalty terms sought by producers will require passage of a constitutional amendment because it infringes on the authority of future legislatures. If an amendment is not ready by this fall's election, lawmakers would need to wait until 2018 — pushing the project back two more years.

But in a statement to The Associated Press, Walker said, "If agreements are not reached by the end of the regular session, we will need to consider all of our options going forward."

The only problem with his assertion, though, is readily apparent in the next line of the statement: "However, at this time we do not know what all of those options would be."

Quite frankly, Alaska is far too invested in Alaska LNG to be considering other options — even if there were any — and Walker's comments show exactly why the producers want fiscal certainty on the project. Alaska is a partner in the project, but it's also a regulator, and any organization should be wary of entering into an agreement with a partner that has that kind of leverage.

According to The Associated Press, Dave Van Tuyl, regional manager for BP in Alaska, told the House Resources Committee he would love for the agreements to be done, but he said they are complex and will take time to work out. The underlying agreements will bind the parties together for decades, making it essential that the agreements are done fairly and well, he said.

The central Kenai Peninsula has a lot riding on a natural gas pipeline, as does the rest of Alaska. We hope all parties involved continue to move the project forward. But we think careful negotiations, not bluster and empty threats, are the best way to reach those goals.

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