The University of Alaska dedicated its Lena Point Fisheries Building in Juneau Tuesday, following a long, difficult process of getting money and approval for the building.
Under warm and sunny skies, with a backdrop of the season's remaining snow, Gov. Sarah Palin and a host of academic and research dignitaries were united in their support for the fishing industry and the research that supports it.
When the building was in its conceptual stage 14 years ago, Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation Executive Director Mike Burns was on the University of Alaska Board of Regents.
Tuesday, Burns was at the dedication where Palin called the state's sustainable fisheries and ocean resources a "living Permanent Fund" for Alaska.
Commercial fisheries in Alaska provide $6 billion in economic value annually, and 50,000 jobs, she said.
"Subsistence and sports fisheries provide nutritional and cultural value that can't be replaced," Palin said.
The $27 million building was sought by the chancellors of the University of Alaska schools in Fairbanks and Juneau, said Mark Hamilton, President of the system.
"This was a politically difficult project," Hamilton said.
It was built in Juneau, but is part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.
Denis Wiesenburg, dean of the school, said that wherever the fisheries building is located, it will be part of the school's mission.
"Our goal is to educate Alaskans, in Alaska, to work in Alaska fisheries," said Wiesenburg.
Much of the work they want to do is already being done in Juneau, in borrowed quarters at the University of Alaska Southeast's Anderson Hall.
In the day's spirit of congeniality, the only person who criticized the Juneau school's building was UAS Chancellor John Pugh, who said it "should have been condemned years ago."
Pugh said the regents were shocked at the cramped, rundown condition when they toured the building - but it still took 10 years to get it replaced.
Wiesenburg said the faculty brings in about $2 million a year in outside research grants. That will help both the local and state economy, he said, but the commitment the building shows will help in other ways as well.
The gleaming new facility will help attract top-notch faculty and students, he said. That will likely help in replacing highly regarded UAF Fisheries Division Director Bill Smoker when he retires this summer, Wiesenburg said.
"This is a commitment to the Fisheries program," Wiesenburg said.
In similar language, both Palin and Kerttula praised Alaska fisheries managers for setting a standard that led both the nation and the world. The new lab's research will enable that work to continue, they said.
Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Juneau Empire ©2013. All Rights Reserved.