Begich: Deepwater Ports Bill to Strengthen Alaska Economy (USA)
Citing expanding commerce and activity in the Arctic, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich introduced The Arctic Deepwater Ports Enhancement Act to promote the development of much-needed deepwater ports in the region.
“Arctic ports will have a big effect on the way we produce and export natural resources and on our ability to reduce high fuel costs in the region,” said Sen. Begich. “The ports will strengthen the Alaska economy by providing jobs and opportunities for small business. I expect the increases in shipping, oil and gas exploration and tourism to pave the pathway for greater economic growth.”
Sen. Begich’ s bill streamlines environmental reviews for Arctic ports by designating one agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to coordinate all the federal reviews, and sets a limited time for the government to come to a decision on Environmental Impact Statements (EIS). The bill also borrows a successful tactic Begich has used to promote Arctic oil and gas development by creating a federal coordinator’s office to ensure all the agencies are working together.
“Alaskans know that developing our resources means more jobs, more revenues, and more long-term economic security,” said Begich. “If we don’t take the necessary steps now to create Alaska’s foothold in the Arctic – other nations will.”
Because public-private partnerships will be needed to develop Arctic ports, the bill would give the Army Corps new authorities to enter into partnerships with private and local groups for development and creates a loan guarantee program to provide federal backing for private loans to port developers.
“I want to ensure that Alaska is in the driver’s seat here and that federal resources are available so they can secure the capital they need to get rolling,” said Begich.
Arctic communities were pleased to see Begich’s bill introduced. Denise Michels, the Mayor of the City of Nome, praised the bill:
“The City of Nome supports Senator Begich’s bill,” said Michels. “Given the increase in Arctic traffic from the Northern Sea Route, rapidly expanding offshore oil and mining development, the need for emergency and pollution response it is entirely appropriate for the U.S. Government to participate in establishing an Arctic port as a base for these operations.”
Sen. Begich has previously introduced several bills to support Arctic development, including legislation to bolster Arctic science and secure more than $35 billion for Alaska through the same federal revenue sharing program Gulf of Mexico states enjoy.
Press Release, March 4, 2013