From the Alaska Dispatch, September 6, 2009:
Sep 5, 2009
In the wake of last winter’s fuel crisis in parts of the Bush, Gov. Sean Parnell’s administration is asking more than 400 fuel distributors, local governments and regional nonprofits for status reports on fuel supplies in rural areas as winter nears.
Parnell press secretary Sharon Leighow said the Division of Community and Regional Affairs staff is making 400 calls over the next two weeks to gather updates on where fuel shipments stand. The division has also set up a toll-free number — (877) 769-4614 — for people with concerns about adequate winter fuel supplies in their communities.
Since June we’ve asked if there will be affordable fuel in place in rural villages this fall, before the rivers freeze and barge deliveries become impossible. We waited for moths for answers. This led to further questions about the new Rural Sub-Cabinet and its Advisory Panel.
On June 29, faithful contributer Jim Behlke contacted Tara Jollie, the Director of the State’s Division of Community and Regional Affairs, and asked if villages had obtained adequate fuel supplies for the upcoming winter, or if she knew of any villages that may not be able to afford fuel for delivery before freeze up.
On July 10 Behlke also contacted the rural subcabinet’s chair, the Attorney General, and encouraged the subcabinet to convene and determine if any state assistance may be available to rural residents who couldn’t afford to purchase fuel for subsistence fishing and hunting
After weeks of deafening silence he publicly asked for a little more information about what the Rural Sub-Cabinet was doing to prevent a repeat of last year’s crisis. This article was published a month ago today in the Alaska Dispatch:
Aug 7, 2009
I’ve been especially concerned about the health of rural Alaska after last winter’s fuel crisis. Then came flooding, and now parts of rural Alaska have had another disastrous fishing season that will probably lead to significant economic hardships next winter. So, I’ve been wondering about the Alaska Rural Action Subcabinet (ARAS).
He goes on to ask a number of questions about the Sub-Cabinet’s Advisory Panel including if and when they meet, are meetings open to the public and are minutes recorded.
We received some answers on August 13 from Sub-Cabinet Advisory Panel Chair Michael Black. The Panel meets quarterly, there are no minutes but notes are taken and a notice is posted the morning of their meetings in the Atwood Building in Anchorage.
You can read more in Ann’s August 31 post in which she points out how hard it would be for rural dwellers to participate.
We could go on and on about why the administration should have take action months ago to make sure fuel is in place now in the Bush and how the Advisory Panel to the Rural-Sub-Cabinet should have made this a priority since no one else was paying attention but we won’t. At least something’s being done now.
Rena Delbridge sums up the importance of acting quickly nowl in her Dispatch article .
Alaska’s harsh winter weather and ice prevent shipments on waterways from reaching rural areas in all but a few summer months. Most of the fuel must be delivered by early October, Tornga said. But already waters on the Kuskokwim are well below normal stages for barge transport, and temperatures in McGrath, a village several days upriver from Bethel, have dropped below freezing on a number of nights. If waters freeze before levels rise, a few communities could face the added expense of flying in fuel to replenish their tanks.