NOAA to work on Arctic at Juneau panel

Public meetings at EP Hall this week

This July 10, 2008 photo made with a fisheye lens shows ice floes in Baffin Bay above the Arctic Circle, seen from the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker. (Associated Press | Louis S. St-Laurent)

This July 10, 2008 photo made with a fisheye lens shows ice floes in Baffin Bay above the Arctic Circle, seen from the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker. (Associated Press | Louis S. St-Laurent)

Meetings this week in Juneau will help shape the future of marine navigation in the Arctic and around Alaska.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hydrographic Services Review Panel convenes Tuesday at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall for three days of meetings. The twice annual meetings convene a group of experts on navigation and marine transportation. The panel’s goal is to develop priorities for NOAA’s navigation services — the charts, tide tables, and coast surveys — on which mariners depend.

As sea ice melts in the Arctic at an increasing rate, world powers are scrambling to capitalize on Arctic sea routes that are staying open longer. Shipping traffic on the Northern Sea Route increased 50 percent last year, according to media reports.

But the U.S. lacks maritime infrastructure in the region and is building fewer ice breaking ships capable of traveling through ice free zones.

Only an estimated 4.1 percent of the U.S. maritime Arctic has been charted to modern international navigation standards, according to the HSRP. Increasing NOAA’s modern mapping of the Arctic will take time, money and careful planning. The panel, a group of experts in vessel pilotage, port administration, tides and currents, coastal zone management, geodesy, recreational boating, marine transportation and academia, will advise NOAA on how to best go about charting the Arctic.

The HSRP is comprised of 15 voting members and four non-voting members, including one Juneauite. Retired U.S. Coast Guard Captain Ed Page, executive director of the Marine Exchange of Alaska, sits on the panel, advising it on marine transportation.

The meetings start at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, lasting until 6 p.m. On Wednesday, a 9 a.m.-noon session will be held. Thursday’s schedule starts at 9 a.m. and lasts until 4 p.m. A joint meeting between the HSRP and U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System Advisory Committee will take place Tuesday.

Additionally, a town hall style meeting will convene at Centennial Hall on Friday, featuring fishing industry experts. The NOAA Town Hall Event opens at 3:30 p.m. Speaking will be retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Timothy Cole Gallaudet.

The public is encouraged to provide comments on Arctic and Alaska maritime issues in the form of letters for the HSRP. A webinar will be available at for those who can’t attend the meeting in person.

A full list of meeting materials can be found at

• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 and Follow him on Twitter at @KevinGullufsen.

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