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Alaska’s Only Working Polar Class Icebreaker Decommissioned


Lt. Governor Treadwell Expresses Disappointment

February 17, 2011, Juneau, AK – Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell expressed the State of Alaska’s disappointment that the U.S. Coast Guard will decommission one of its two working Polar Class Icebreakers, the POLAR SEA, this year.  He also expressed disappointment with the Coast Guard’s announcement Monday that replacing the polar class icebreakers built in the 1970’s has yet again been deferred pending further study.  The only other working vessel, the POLAR STAR, will not be operational until 2013.

“In Alaska, our governor and congressional delegation have called for construction of new heavy icebreakers. But instead, the president’s budget says we need even more studies,” Treadwell said in a speech to the World Affairs Council in Juneau yesterday.

In his speech, Treadwell cited energy shipments through the Bering Strait being made by Russia and Canada, which are expected to grow.  The lieutenant governor asserted that Alaska’s coastline deserves the same level of protection that other states receive – for border security, for fisheries enforcement, for environmental response, for law enforcement and for search and rescue.  The U.S. Coast Guard Icebreaker Healy, which also works in Arctic waters, is not built to operate in ice as heavy as the POLAR STAR and POLAR SEA.

“This is not an issue of adding to the federal budget,” Treadwell said.  “It’s an allocation issue.”  A new Arctic Search and Rescue agreement will be signed in May, Treadwell said, “and America needs the tools to do the job it will sign up for.”

Lt. Governor Treadwell’s speech, “Why the Arctic Matters - to Alaska, to America, and to the World”, focused on three key areas of immediate concern in the Arctic:  the adequacy of our science program, our commitment to invest in Arctic infrastructure, and our commitment to international cooperation.

Treadwell was appointed to the United States Arctic Research Commission by President George W. Bush in 2001, and was designated by the President as the Commission’s chair in 2006.  Lt. Governor Treadwell has been designated by Governor Sean Parnell as the state’s liaison to the U. S. Arctic Research Commission, and as the state’s lead on Arctic Council and Northern Forum Issues.

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