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OPINION: From the Publisher: Media attention over icebreaker prompts explanation about Alaska

January 13th, 2012 | Jason Evans Print this article   Email this article  

As chairman of the Sitnasuak Native Corporation, I have been directly involved in all of the aspects of the work to get the Russian ice class tanker Renda with its 1.3 million gallons of diesel fuel and gasoline to Nome, Alaska. Sitnasuak Native Corporation is the Village Corporation for Nome where it owns and operates Bonanza Fuel.

I knew, once we publicly announced our plans to use a Russian ice class tanker to deliver fuel to Nome in January, when there is significant ice, this would be a story for the media to write about. Any time you do something that has never been done before, it gets the engine of a lot of people.

So we drafted a press release, to send to media outlets throughout the state. I told our team the first calls needed to be to the media in Nome. So I called KNOM and the Nome Nugget and conducted the first of many interviews. Since then I have done interviews with the Anchorage Daily News, the Alaska Dispatch, the Kodiak newspaper, the Dutch Harbor radio, the Associated Press, CNN, New York Times, Fox News, CBS Radio and several others.

Little did I know, that while doing these interviews I would be explaining a lot about Alaska. I have tried to explain to people what a Native Corporation is and what they do, why fuel must be shipped to Nome, why the Coast Guard wants to help us, and how one goes about chartering a Russian icebreaker.

For the most part the media has been very interested in knowing about this mission and how it will help the people of Nome. And also how it is an eye-opening experience to learn about the capabilities of the United States Coast Guard and the lack of ice breaking capabilities that our nation maintains. It really does put it in perspective. We will soon have a lot of shipping activity through the Arctic, not to mention all of the oil and gas exploration off of our Arctic coastlines.

The only frustrating part has been when outside reporters have asked if doing all this effort for such a small community is really worth it. I tried to explain the Coast Guard has a 220 year history of assisting commerce throughout our country. The Coast Guard routinely assists commerce in the Great Lakes, along the Hudson River, across the eastern United States. Shouldn't the citizens of Alaska have the same opportunity?

The Coast Guard is a tremendous organization that has done a lot of work both with the icebreaker Healy but also a lot of coordination. They have people and personnel that have really come together to coordinate a safe and effective mission. Without their help this would have been nearly impossible.


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