Anyone who travels across this large state will quickly realize how competitive the individual regions are when competing with other parts of the state. One very prominent example of this territorial competition can be seen over the years between Anchorage and Fairbanks. Each community has a University of Alaska. Each community has been the hub in Alaska’s history for the refueling of jets. Fairbanks was the first hub. But, by the time Anchorage renamed its airport the Ted Stevens International Airport, the cargo jet capitol for the state was on the shores of the Cook Inlet.
Another competitive nature that exists in the state is within the salmon fishing industry. On the Kenai Peninsula, the Nikiski community prides itself as a family-oriented setnet community that goes after the salmon every summer. To the south, Kenai fishermen have a blend of commercial fishermen, sports fishermen, and those who dipnet for subsistence at the Kenai River’s mouth. Further downstream on the Kenai River is Soldotna. It is a sportfishing community. Finally, when the popularity of the Kenai River brings in large crowds, many anglers also try their luck for king salmon and subsistance fishing on the Kasilof River, which empties into the Cook Inlet after leaving Tustumena Lake.
Competing for that precious summer tourism revenue is another big event. Beginning in late April and early May, Seward, Anchorage and Whittier become the four major destinations for cruise ships. After docking, the passengers get the opportunity to see more of the state through train, shuttle and bus services. The industry also has agreements with lodging operations across the state. Plus, some tourists who arrive in state are able to rent recreational vehicles to travel the road system.
The tourists don’t just travel by boat. Others come by airplane. Others come by way of the Alaska Highway through Canada. Then, there is an even larger group of people who call Alaska home for six to eight months out of the year by parking their RV’s at campsites. Or, returning to their Alaska home from one of the warm states.
The boroughs along the state’s road systems have spent years coming up with unique ways to capture some revenue from all of these cruise ship passengers and RV travelers. Examples of some revenues include: bed taxes, sales taxes, gasoline taxes, user fees, parking fees, fees for the purchase of hunting and fishing licenses, and even fees to clean up the air pollution and water pollution caused by the cruise ship industry, and the increased highway traffic.
The next example of Alaska’s extremely competitive nature has been with the plan to develop a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope. However, this example shows where Alaska’s competive nature can actually be destructive.
When the oil supply at Prudeau Bay was discovered, pockets of natural gas were also found. Instead of burning off the natural gas, the producers returned the gas back to the ground. Their plan was to bring it back out after the oil was depleted.
By the year 2000, the state had already started considering the extraction of this natural gas. Unfortunately, since the early 2000’s, the state has been unsuccessful in marketing the natural gas project, primarily due to the competive nature of those involved in the process since 2003.
The first pipeline idea was to take the gas through Canada, and connect it with the North American market. Most Alaskans disagreed, saying the gas belonged to Alaska, not Canada or the Lower 48. Alaska wanted some of the gas to heat homes and businesses in locations like Fairbanks, Nome, and the villages.
The second pipeline idea would be an in-state line to Nikiski. But, when the producers said it would cost to much money to build, they backed out of it. The state decided to go it alone. But, the progress didn’t make it very far, despite verbal marketing agreements in Asia. The state finally lost funding to move the project forward, without some type of outside investments being made.
Once again, differing opinions in the nations largest state left an idea, thought to be the state’s future, simply a pipe dream with nothing inside.