Friday I attended the first meeting of the Alaska Northern Waters Task Force in Anchorage. The task force was formed to coordinate state and federal interests resulting from the opening of arctic waters. The group will work to put Alaska at the forefront of U.S. Arctic Policy, addressing issues of transportation, national security, and resource development. The task force includes legislators, arctic community leaders, and representatives of state and federal agencies.
It’s crucial for Alaska to recognize the strategic importance of arctic waters. The areas off of Alaska’s northern coast have some of the richest oil & gas deposits in the arctic. As sea ice declines we will need to come to grips with potential arctic shipping routes. This summer saw a large increase in arctic passage including cargo ships, luxury yachts, and the first Russian supertanker carrying natural gas. This meeting featured presentations from the Coast Guard, NOAA, U.S. Arctic Research Commission, Shell Exploration, and the White House Office of Science & Technology.
During this next year, the task force will meet in many of our Northern Waters communities. On December 2nd we will travel to Barrow for a joint meeting with the Arctic Caucus of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER) to discuss arctic infrastructure and international issues.