Alaska editorial: Washington governor's Alaska visit encouraging

Posted: Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Washington's Gov. Chris Gregoire visited Alaska earlier this month and was hosted at dinner in Anchorage by Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

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Gregoire said she sought to pursue economic development cooperation with Alaska. When the two lady executives sat down to dinner, the subjects were tourism, education, global warming and natural gas production.

Talks probably included touchy subjects such as shared salmon runs, on which the two states have disagreed in the past, and other areas such as a proposed $100 tax on freight vans traveling to Alaska. Gregoire said that idea is dead and gone, thankfully.

She said, "There is a clear desire to return to a positiverelationship."

It is encouraging to hear that from Washington's chief executive. We are sure Palin feels the same. But that doesn't mean Alaska caves in to every policy of the state of Washington. Some of Washington's actions are unreasonable, such as blocking development of oil and gas on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The designation of the coastal plain for future development was the result of a compromise with the environmental lobby worked out by a Washington senator, the late Henry Jackson, a Democrat, and an Alaska senator, Ted Stevens, a Republican. The coastal plain was purposely left out of wilderness status in the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 so it could be tapped if oil reserves were ever found there. And they were. So it could be tapped when the nation needs the oil, which it does to decrease dependence on foreign sources unfriendly to the United States.

Another of the major cooperative efforts between Alaska and Washington leaders occurred when the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act became law in 1977. It created an entire new industry, which especially benefited Puget Sound ports. They became home ports to a fleet of factory ships and trawlers harvesting bottomfish in the North Pacific on a sustainable basis. The act passed Congress through the efforts of the late Washington Sen. Warren Magnuson, a Democrat, and again, Stevens.

Ninety-seven percent of the goods used in Alaska go through the state of Washington. Washingtonians should be reminded that an equal amount of what Alaska buys is from Washington firms and much of Alaska's resources boost Washington's economy. It's a two-way street.

It would be nice to see cooperative efforts between the two states. That might be possible, judging by Gregoire's presence in Alaska and Palin's enthusiasm for a positive new direction for her state. May the two chief executives meet again frequently.

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