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Rep. Don Young has given a strong endorsement to one of Southeast Alaska's top priorities for economic development, an energy grid connecting new hydroelectric power plants throughout the region.
"There ought to be a grid put together," Young said. "You can't develop even a cottage industry unless you have cheap power."
Young, who has represented Alaska in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1973, said energy was the state's number one problem, but not enough was being done about it.
"What the governor and the Legislature should do, instead of just talking," is develop rural Alaska's energy resources, he said. "We've talked about it long enough."
Young spoke this week to the Native Issues Forum at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall in Juneau, and with one of Juneau's Rotary clubs.
While some Southeast communities have relatively inexpensive hydroelectric power, inadequate transmission lines mean many rural communities remain on diesel power. And inability to get power to consumers means some likely hydro sites can't be developed economically. It's unlikely the communities would be able to use all the power produced, or be able to sell excess energy.
Young suggested the Alaska Permanent Fund invest in power projects, instead of investments elsewhere.
"Instead of investing our money in real estate in Virginia, bring that money back here and invest it in power," he said.
The real estate he was referring to is the Permanent Fund's huge Tyson's Corner Mall in Northern Virginia.
The often confrontational Congressman sounded conciliatory in Juneau. His message: Everyone needs to work to bring more power to Alaska.
"Lets all work together, let's hold hands, let's achieve the goal of producing energy for everyone in Alaska," he said.