Legislature(2019 - 2020)BARNES 124
04/23/2019 01:00 PM TRANSPORTATION
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HJR 14-URGING SUPPORT FOR NOME DEEP-DRAFT PORT 1:05:04 PM CO-CHAIR WOOL announced that the first order of business would be HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 14, Urging the Alaska Congressional delegation to pursue infrastructure funding for a deep draft Arctic port in Nome; requesting the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to send a letter from the state to the Alaska Congressional delegation supporting a deep draft Arctic port in Nome; and requesting the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to work collaboratively with the City of Nome on a deep draft Arctic port in Nome. 1:05:59 PM REPRESENTATIVE NEAL FOSTER, Alaska State Legislature, as prime sponsor, relayed the three priorities of HJR 14: to urge the congressional delegation to pursue infrastructure funding; to request the Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT&PF) send a letter to the congressional delegation supporting a deep draft Arctic port in Nome; and to request DOT&PF to work collaboratively with the City of Nome to provide technical support. 1:06:41 PM CO-CHAIR WOOL opened public testimony on HJR 14. 1:07:07 PM RAY WARD relayed his personal connection to Alaska. He said the melting of the ice in the Northwest Passage has provided opportunity for an economic boon for the maritime industry. He opined that Alaska needs to invest not only in the Port of Nome, but in other Arctic coast regions of Alaska. He said Norway, Finland, Greenland, Russia, and Canada have already geared up for this maritime boon, and cruise liners have made many voyages to the Northwest Passage. He relayed that this passage cuts travel time in half when compared to passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific via the Panama Canal. Mr. Ward stated that Alaska's congressional delegation needs to lobby the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) for the installation of a U.S. Naval or U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) headquarters in the Arctic region. He said currently Alaska's Arctic coastline is "wide open" to invasion from China, North Korea, and Russia. Mr. Ward mentioned fish migration caused by warming of waters, and he warned that without a military presence in the Arctic region, Alaska will be subject to violation of the [Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management] Act, which designates a [U.S. exclusive economic zone up to] 200 miles [offshore] that applies to fishing by foreign vessels. He relayed the imperative nature of the development of and investment in the Arctic region. He further suggested the construction of a pipeline from the natural gas fields already developed to the Arctic coast, because it is transported by cargo tankers. 1:13:17 PM DOUG WALRATH, Director, Northwestern Alaska Career & Technical Center, testified in support of HJR 14. He credited the previous testifier for covering points regarding military defense and economic competitiveness. He remarked that many people in the Lower 48 are probably not aware that the U.S. is an Arctic nation, and as a result, the country is "woefully unprepared" compared to other Arctic nations, which he said is surprising when considering the other accomplishments of the U.S. He said the voice of Alaska's congressional delegation is required to advocate for a deep draft Arctic port in Nome, Alaska, which he suggested is "really advocating on behalf of the U.S. as a whole." 1:15:32 PM CO-CHAIR WOOL, after ascertaining that there was no one else who wished to testify, closed public testimony on HJR 14. 1:15:38 PM The committee took an at-ease from 1:15 p.m. to 1:17 p.m. 1:17:17 PM CO-CHAIR STUTES asked whether the issue presented in HJR 14 had been seen by the legislature before. She said she thinks it is "an interesting, exciting process." 1:17:42 PM REPRESENTATIVE FOSTER responded, "This is the first time we have presented this resolution." CO-CHAIR STUTES asserted that she has seen the information before, and she reiterated her enthusiasms for the subject. REPRESENTATIVE FOSTER confirmed that the topic of Alaska's Arctic passageway has been presented over the years in various forms. 1:18:29 PM REPRESENTATIVE RASMUSSEN inquired whether the bill sponsor would be amenable to an amendment to add the Port of Alaska, because it is in need of financial assistance. REPRESENTATIVE FOSTER deferred the question to Joy Baker. 1:19:31 PM JOY BAKER, Port Director, City of Nome, stated that HJR 14 is concerned with shipping in the Arctic and is not specifically a financial request. She said she thinks tying the Port of Nome to Anchorage would defeat the purpose of trying to develop maritime infrastructure in Arctic waters. 1:20:27 PM CO-CHAIR WOOL echoed that the proposed joint resolution is not a request for funding and that it seems to be specifically for Nome. He remarked that the name, "Port of Alaska," was coined such but may not really be its proper name, and it could be confusing to have a Port of Alaska and a Port of Nome. He asked Representative Rasmussen if she wished to pursue an amendment. 1:21:29 PM REPRESENTATIVE RASMUSSEN answered no. 1:21:44 PM REPRESENTATIVE STORY stated that she's pleased to see HJR 14 shed light on the importance of an Arctic port "for development and for ... security reasons." She predicted the proposed joint resolution would be well received on the House floor. 1:22:08 PM CO-CHAIR WOOL returned to the idea of a natural gas pipeline, which was brought up by a testifier. He suggested that the port being frozen much of the year might make it difficult to have reliable transport of natural gas. 1:22:43 PM REPRESENTATIVE FOSTER said Co-Chair Wool is correct that the port is frozen for a portion of the winter, and although the port thawed unexpectedly early in 2019, ships cannot make it into port year round. 1:23:30 PM CO-CHAIR STUTES moved to report HJR 14 out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, HJR 14, was reported out of the House Transportation Standing Committee.