- Associated Press - Monday, February 2, 2015

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - The Alaska Arctic Policy Commission has recommended the state take several steps to enhance Arctic communities, but finding the money for the improvements could be a challenge.

The report’s recommendations center around four areas of focus: economic and resource development, infrastructure, healthy communities, and science and research. The report details several projects that would advance those goals.

During a news conference Monday, Rep. Bob Herron, D-Bethel, said a lot of the projects may be postponed for a while until funding is available, but that it was important to start planning for them.

Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, identified private investors and the state’s Arctic Infrastructure Fund as other possible sources of money.

The legislature created the fund last session, enabling the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority to make loans or loan guarantees for Arctic projects such as ports, roads, telecommunications, emergency services and fisheries infrastructure.

The legislature did not put any money into that fund, but the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority can use its own money for it.

Federal revenue sharing is another potential source of funding for other infrastructure work, Herron said. Alaska currently receives a share of federal revenue from onshore development, but it does not receive a share of federal revenue from offshore development, despite the fact that offshore projects have affect life onshore, Herron said. Establishing a revenue-sharing agreement for offshore development was one of the projects suggested by the commission.

Possible projects include the development of an Arctic port; oil and gas exploration; spill-prevention resources; home access to water, sewer and sanitation services in rural communities; reducing power and heating costs; workforce development; and increased research. Other suggestions in the report include basing more fishing vessels in Alaska; additional exploration and development in the Ambler mining district; and more work mapping the Arctic.

The report purposefully did not prioritize the projects because the 26 commission members had differing ideas about what was most important, McGuire said.

The commission has spent the last two years developing an Arctic policy for the state.

McGuire and Herron are co-chairs of the commission and introduced companion bills in the Senate and House to establish the state’s Arctic policy.

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