Here is a sampling of Alaska editorials:
Dec. 27, 2017
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Share the trails Fairbanks: follow rules, use common sense
The Interior’s extensive network of trails makes winter adventures abundant and accessible. Practicing good trail etiquette makes the intended trail user’s experience more enjoyable, and it keeps trail users safe.
Within the Fairbanks North Star Borough there are hundreds of miles of multi-use trails. Signs are posted to lay down the rules at most trailheads. Right of way rules, in general, require motorized vehicle users, such as snowmachiners, to yield to non-motorized trail users. Other restrictions and rules are posted, too.
For example, at Creamer’s Field, bikes are not allowed on the boreal forest trail, and dog owners are asked to clean up their pet’s feces.
On the Alaska Dog Mushers Association trails, skijorers are welcome but should give right of way to mushers. Snowmachines are not allowed on these trails; they are groomed by the association and big mountain snowmachine tracks tear them up.
And dogs are not allowed on the trails at Birch Hill Recreation Area.
Trail etiquette also requires common sense. Mushers and fat bikers should wear headlamps during these dark winter days; snowmachine drivers should slow down as they navigate blind corners.
Trail users also should be aware of events happening throughout the winter. Trails are marked well on race day, but that hasn’t prevented collisions.
In March, during the Annamaet Limited North American Championships, a snowmachine crossed the path of Chugiak musher Kourosh Partow. The snowmachine went over the sled’s rear runners, causing the musher’s sled to flip. Partow and his dogs were not injured, but the incident cost Partow a first place lead.
However, a collision on the trails can be more costly than a podium finish. In March 2016, a Nulato man crashed into an Iditarod team, killing one dog and injuring four others. The man was sentenced to six months in prison and ordered to pay a $36,000 fine.
Snowmachine drivers aren’t the only people capable of fouling up the trails. Imagine a cross-country skier scooting down the Chena River the same day as Iron Dog snowmachines zoom toward the finish line. It’s not only inconsiderate to the competitors, but also it’s an unnecessary risk that could result in serious injury.
We should enjoy the trails this winter but not at the expense of others. Stay alert, smart and courteous on the trails.
Dec. 24, 2017
Peninsula Clarion: Saving for the next rainy day
Last week, Gov. Bill Walker made a swing through Kenai to pitch his administration’s plan for a long awaited, much anticipated liquefied natural gas project.
Also this past week, Congress passed a tax code overhaul that includes a long awaited provision to open a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration.
That’s a big week for Alaska. If either of those opportunities come to fruition — and there’s much work to be done to make that happen — Alaska will be on the verge of an economic boom perhaps bigger than the trans-Alaska pipeline in its heyday.
According to U.S. Geological Survey estimates, the coastal plain of ANWR could hold 10 billion barrels of oil — enough to keep the pipeline flowing for years to come.
Likewise, the proposed LNG project — with its terminus and liquefaction plant to be located in Nikiski — has the potential to bring natural gas to world markets for the next century.
Again, this is fantastic news for Alaska, where we’ve been waiting for decades for the next big thing. Both opportunities qualify, and they couldn’t come at a better time as the crash in oil prices has left the state coping with multi-billion dollar deficits for the past few years, blowing through $14 billion in savings along the way.
With that in mind, we’d like to pose this question: What have we learned from Alaska’s previous economic booms that we can apply going forward?
Certainly, we’ll have to be prepared for the influx of people that comes with a booming economy, and all the issues that come along with that. We’ll also need to mitigate the impacts of oil exploration and infrastructure development on the environment — we Alaskans do value our wild spaces — and our communities.
But what can we do to ensure that the benefits of a potential boom will be used to secure prosperity for future generations of Alaskans?
The smartest thing Alaskans did the first time around was to establish the Alaska Permanent Fund, which is now worth in the neighborhood of $62 billion. The permanent fund has long been billed as the state’s rainy day account, yet as the current debate over use of its earnings demonstrates, we’ve never had a good definition of what constitutes rain. Indeed, a sovereign wealth fund has much more potential than simply paying dividends to residents; for an example, just look to the proposed LNG deal, which would be financed in large part by China Investment Corp., China’s version of the permanent fund.
Investment in mega-projects might not be the right use of the Alaska Permanent Fund, but what we do need to have is a better plan for when the boom ends. Alaska’s current recession caught many by surprise, and we didn’t have a contingency plan in place to deal with such a large and ongoing shortfall. We’ve been fortunate to have had a healthy savings account, but that is now used up, and we still don’t have a backup plan.
Certainly, there is economic value in paying out dividends to Alaskans each year. And as a resource state, Alaska will continue to be impacted by the volatility of the market. But wouldn’t Alaskans be better served by a plan that would smooth out some of those economic downturns? Whether it’s a percent of market value draw on permanent fund earnings, or some other mechanism, a contingency plan that eliminates the angst and uncertainty — not to mention, deep cuts to state services — would seem to be a better option.
Short of that, the Alaska Legislature will at the very least need to ensure the state’s savings accounts are replenished, as it did several years ago when oil prices spiked. Because if there’s one thing we’ve learned, you never know when that rainy day might come.
Dec. 20, 2017
Alaska Journal of Commerce: Wrapping up a wild year from ANWR to Zinke
Just a few days remain in 2017, and what a year it has been since the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
While the Alaska Legislature still can’t agree on a solution to the state’s budget woes and has nearly run out of the politically accessible savings accounts, in a welcome change it has had no bigger friend than the leader of the executive branch in Washington, D.C.
As this column was being written the news came that a bill is on its way to Trump’s desk to massively overhaul the tax system and hand Alaska its longtime, No. 1 goal of opening the coastal plain of …
ANWR: The Democrats in the Senate couldn’t stop it this time, nor could their allies in the environmental extremist movement. We are a long way from first oil, and the lawsuit machine is no doubt cranking up, but there can be no doubt that the prospect of opening up another Prudhoe Bay bodes well for Alaska’s future.
Budget battle: The Legislature spent a record 211 days in session this year, partly thanks to its divided houses’ inability to compromise and partly because of Gov. Bill Walker’s October special session that transformed from a supposed “revenue” session to a referendum on the criminal justice reform bill passed barely a year earlier.
Cannabis: The sky hasn’t fallen in Alaska after the legalization of cannabis in 2014, with the first legal sale in October 2016. Prohibitionists have attempted to overturn the state vote in the Mat-Su, on the Kenai Peninsula and in Fairbanks, but voters have resoundingly rejected every effort to turn back the clock.
Dean Don: Rep. Don Young assumed the title of “Dean of the House” after Michigan Rep. John Conyers was forced to resign amid multiple sexual harassment allegations and settlements of those allegations. There’s no shortage of legendary stories about Young over his four decades in Congress — including one that surfaced this year about brandishing a knife at former Speaker John Boehner — but thankfully none that resemble the daily revelations coming out of DC, Hollywood and New York.
EIS: Probably more Alaskans know what EIS stands for than any other state population, and environmental impact statements are now underway for the Liberty offshore Arctic project, the Nanushuk onshore discovery by Armstrong and the 211-mile road to the Ambler mining district.
Fake news: The media created this term in order to discredit Trump’s win, and the president has turned it into a club to bash the ever-shrinking credibility of an industry once regarded as a check on power that is not even bothering to hide its progressive agenda anymore.
GDP: After never crossing the 3 percent growth mark in eight years under President Barack Obama, GDP has steadily averaged 3 percent under Trump as the stock market soars. Even before tax reform passed the Federal Reserve now estimates fourth quarter GDP will be 4 percent.
Harassment: The story of the year, as the mountain of allegations against Hollywood mogul and Democrat heavyweight Harvey Weinstein has unleashed a tsunami of pent-up accusations that shows no signs yet of ebbing that have brought down some of the biggest names in media, politics and entertainment who have largely spent years portraying themselves as champions of women’s rights.
ISIS: After Obama downplayed the rise of ISIS and sat by as it ran roughshod over Iraq and Syria committing atrocity after atrocity, less than a year after Trump became commander in chief the “caliphate” has been routed from its capitals of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria. Although much like the GDP numbers, the media isn’t much interested in reporting on this tremendous military success.
Jerusalem: Yes, it is the capital of Israel and yet another example of Trump keeping a promise where his predecessors going back to Bill Clinton have not. If you haven’t watched UN Ambassador Nikki Haley give it to the Security Council, it is worth a view for the refreshing sound of a nation that is unashamed of exercising its sovereignty rather than be cowed by the constraints of “international opinion.”
King Cove: The road is on its way to being built, again to the consternation of environmental groups who care not a whit for the people of the region and would not live for a minute under the conditions they want to impose on others.
LNG: Gov. Bill Walker got some serious face time in China with its president and Trump. Whether the joint development agreement with the Chinese corporations is simply a memorandum of understanding by another name will become more clear in the coming year.
Media meltdown: A continuation on the fake news, the more the media protests like Fredo Corleone that it is smart and wants respect, the more they trample on their own feet trying to unearth the smoking gun on Russian collusion by Trump. There have been nearly as many corrections, retractions and resignations surrounding the Trump-Russia story as there have been sexual harassment allegations.
Nanushuk: The discovery by Armstrong Energy keeps getting bigger. Now estimated at more than 2 billion barrels while still barely delineated, the record amounts bid per acre in the formation at the state lease sale bodes well for future production regardless of how long it takes to develop ANWR.
Obamacare: The biggest GOP debacle of the year, Obamacare still exists as the law of the land after Congress failed to repeal and replace it this past summer despite seven years of promises of what Republicans would do if they had the House, Senate and White House. The individual mandate repeal is a start but fixing the broken system is a huge item still on the to-do list.
PFD: For the second year in a row it was set below the statutory formula, this time by the Legislature after Walker vetoed half of it in 2016 and had his action upheld by the Supreme Court. The fight to enshrine it in the Alaska Constitution is now on, and is likely to be led by the unlikely duo of archconservative Sen. Mike Dunleavy and staunch liberal Sen. Bill Wielechowski in the coming year.
Quintillion: The Anchorage telecom has completed its Arctic fiber network around the coast of Alaska and turned on its high-speed service Dec. 1. By any measure an impressive infrastructure accomplishment, rural Alaska has another entry to the information superhighway.
Rocket Man: Trump being Trump, he called the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un “Rocket Man” in a speech to the UN after several missile tests and a nuclear test over the past year. The missiles are showing increasing ability to reach the U.S. mainland and that means a huge amount of federal dollars are going to be flowing to Alaska as the first line of defense at Fort Greely.
Salmon: A bountiful harvest of salmon in virtually every area of the state was a highlight of 2017, with record harvest of chum in the Northwest in a boon to that area’s limited economy. The downsides were Cook Inlet reds and Southeast kings, neither of which look better in 2018.
Tax cuts: The media has trashed the tax overhaul constantly, and is pointing to their polls of the public who has heard nothing good from them about the bill. We’ll see how the polling looks as soon as February when nearly every paycheck gets bigger thanks to less withholding.
Uber: Alaska became the last state in the nation to allow ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft to operate here. In a rare, wise move, the legislature prohibited local jurisdictions from piling regulations on top of the companies.
Virgin: Alaska Airlines closed on its deal to acquire Virgin America and is still experiencing some growing pains, but the company has the cash, the assets and the management to iron them out.
Waiver: One of the few worthwhile aspects of the Affordable Care Act ended up benefiting Alaska when Health and Human Services approved an innovation waiver to help cover the costs of the state reinsurance program. It’s a simple redirection of federal subsidies from premium support to paying high-cost claims, but it is a model that can work elsewhere by giving states more control.
Xtra revenue: Better prices and higher production have the state projected to take in $250 million more than previously expected after the Revenue Department released its latest forecast on Dec. 12.
Yakutat: An interesting exploration project is going on at Icy Cape near Yakutat with potentially huge deposit of heavy minerals such as garnet. The big positive is that no major processing or leeching is needed to extract what could produce millions per year in revenue for the Mental Health Trust that owns the land.
Zinke: Nearly an honorary Alaskan at this point, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has ordered the resource review of NPR-A and ANWR, elevated the King Cove road to a high priority and tapped Alaskans Joe Balash, Tara Sweeney and Steve Wackowski to join his staff.