Gov. Bill Walker answers a range of questions during an interview with the Empire in his Capitol office on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Gov. Bill Walker answers a range of questions during an interview with the Empire in his Capitol office on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

90 days that were 30 years in the making for Alaska

  • By BILL WALKER
  • Thursday, February 1, 2018 2:16pm
  • Opinion

Federal approval for a road connecting King Cove and Cold Bay. The presidents of the United States and China giving their stamps of approval to the Alaska LNG Project. Congress finally freeing a stretch of ANWR to development. And a strong line of defense for the world’s most abundant sockeye salmon fishery in Bristol Bay …

If you told me just a few months ago that any one of these things would soon become a reality, I would have been ecstatic.

Fast forward 90 days to now, and these are just a few of many signs that Alaska’s ability to control its destiny is growing.

I thank everyone whose stubborn persistence paved the way for this to happen. This should come as no surprise.

Across our great state Alaskans do the unglamorous and patient work of preparing for upcoming harvests, hunting or fishing trips, and the season openers. That sort of dedication to making sure we are prepared to take our shot when it’s open is exactly what our state leaders have done for the past 30 years.

When Alaska became a state, we were granted 103 million acres of public land. Seward’s icebox and the natural resources of this great land became the garage chest freezer from which we’ve drawn our economy. Filling the freezer happens by developing our resources, whether oil and gas, fishing, mining or agriculture. Three generations of Alaskans have been fed, clothed, and cared for from that bounty.

Over the past 90 days, we’ve seen the rewards of years of work by many strong Alaskans.

Signing a joint development agreement under the approving gaze of two world leaders, I saw the efforts of countless Alaskans becoming reality. I signed for them and on behalf of families across the state. The gasline deal is the opportunity we need to develop our enormous natural gas reserves: a project that will create jobs for thousands of Alaskans, bring down the cost of energy in our communities, reduce carbon emissions from China through cleaner fuel, and achieve energy dominance for our country.

The 10-02 region of ANWR is another cache of opportunity, one that will allow us to secure access for responsible exploration of lands that was put off limits for decades. This positions industry to add capacity to a pipeline that is only a quarter full, something that is critical to sustaining our economy. As always, we will demand responsible development that protects our natural environment.

There has been constant outcry from Alaskans that politics were put ahead of life and safety in King Cove. Despite many obstacles, through our unified effort, the Izembek Road will finally happen thanks to the land swap that took place between the Interior Department and King Cove Corporation. This affirms our values, allowing access to emergency medical services for King Cove residents. Preventing the death of even one more Alaskan is worth the years of effort, and more than that, it is a signal of our growing voice in Washington.

And finally, the work of thousands of Alaskans from the Bristol Bay region led directly to Administrator Scott Pruitt’s Friday decision to uphold restrictions on hard rock mining in the Bristol Bay watershed. Pruitt directly cited input from Alaskans as critical to his determination that “mining projects in the region likely pose a risk to the abundant natural resources that exist there. Until we know the full extent of that risk, those natural resources and world-class fisheries deserve the utmost protection.” I could not agree more. When we stand together and fight for our land, we can protect our salmon and our way of life, and secure the support of partners at the national level.

Yes, there is still work to be done. But the last 90 days should give Alaskans every reason to believe that when we stand up for ourselves, we can secure the future conditions we need to grow and thrive for the next 50 years.

This is the reward for the vision, persistence and sweat of those who came before us.

 


 

Governor Bill Walker, an independent, is the 11th governor of Alaska.

 


 

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