New U.S. Arctic emissary gets plenty of ideas from Alaskans for Arctic Council priorities

By Yereth Rosen

Alaska Dispatch News

The newly appointed U.S. special Arctic representative, former Coast Guard Commandant Robert Papp, has issued a call for ideas about policies that should be promoted at the Arctic Council once the United States assumes chairmanship of that eight-nation body next year.

A major goal for him, as he prepares for the two-year U.S. chairmanship, is convincing the American public that the Arctic is important to the nation, Papp said at a listening session Thursday in Anchorage.

“What’s that striking passionate issue, that national imperative, that’s going to stimulate the American public?” he asked the audience gathered at the NANA Corp. headquarters downtown.

He had no shortage of suggestions from those attending — representatives of state and local governments, tribes, community groups, academia and business attending the meeting. Ideas for Arctic Council priorities ranged from the nitty-gritty, like investment in projects to make drinking water and food safer, to the esoteric, like promotion of youths’ Arctic knowledge across international borders.

Some emphasized quality-of-life issues.

Larry Hartig, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, and Bill Griffith, manager of the department’s water facility programs, said the council should put an international focus on improving water and sewer facilities in underserved parts of the Arctic. They suggested an international counterpart to the department’s ongoing technology competition, the Alaska Water and Sewer Challenge.

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