As Arctic shipping increases, communities in the Bering Strait region want to benefit from the growth while protecting their subsistence resources. Over the next two days, politicians and government agencies along with industry and community representatives will be meeting in Gambell to discuss how to make that happen.
Organizing the event is Art Ivanoff, CEO of the Bering Sea Alliance LLC.
“There’s three themes that we’re looking at as it relates to the agenda,” Ivanoff said. “We’re looking at infrastructure, resource development, and oil response.”
The Bering Sea Alliance is composed of seven village corporations in the Bering Straits Region. Each is dedicated to developing Arctic resources while protecting their subsistence way of life.
Ivanoff said, “We just knew development was going to occur with or without us, and we felt there was a real need to insert our agenda and insert ourselves into the process. And it seems at the most part we’ve sat at the sidelines and watched people make decisions that impact us.”
Now, Ivanoff said, the Alliance is bringing the process home.
“Our villages are at ground zero,” Ivanoff explains. “It seems like everybody is talking about the Arctic, but I think when it comes to the people who really depend on it, their voice sometimes isn’t heard. And I think this is an opportunity to bring it to where the people will be impacted.”
Ivanoff said even the location of the meeting—Gambell on St. Lawrence Island—enforces this point. Over the next two days, presenters will discuss developments in the Arctic and then panels will address infrastructure needs in the region. The main item is oil spill mitigation. Such response involves upgrading runways and building depots to deploy trained crews and equipment.
“I think if we had equipment stored, people would be lot more comfortable with development occurring in their backyard,” Ivanoff explained.
And with development occurring, Ivanoff said, the communities want to benefit, economically, with jobs.
“There’s a real need for economic opportunities,” he said. “We have staggering unemployment and under employment. Looking at the villages, we just don’t have much infrastructure out there and without infrastructure, we can’t have development.”
Presenters include Senator Lesil McGuire with the Arctic Alaska Policy Commission and representatives from ConocoPhilips, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.
The discussion is Tuesday and Wednesday, April 29 and 30, in Gambell.
KNOM’s Anna Rose MacArthur will be at the event, bringing you on the ground coverage.