Skip to comments.Coast Guard Commandant Considers Alaska Presence
Posted on 09/03/2009 5:20:43 PM PDT by SandRat
WASHINGTON, Sept. 3, 2009 Global climate change is a hotly debated topic, and the U.S. government is looking to Alaska to assess how it may affect the nation.
White House and federal agency officials participating in the new Ocean Policy Task Force traveled throughout Alaska and the Arctic from Aug. 17 to 21 to observe activities in the region and meet with local leaders and industry representatives.
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad W. Allen, who took part in the trip, discussed in a Sept. 1 DoDLive bloggers roundtable how the increasingly accessible and active Arctic region has significant security, environmental, scientific, and economic challenges with broad implications for the nation.
It was an extraordinary opportunity to assess the implications of climate change, to talk to the local towns and communities that are being impacted by it [and] get a sense of the types of issues that are going on up there, Allen said. All in all, theres a lot of activity going on up there [to assess the impact of climate change].
Allen is using the assessment to determine the need for a Coast Guard presence along Alaskas North Shore. The Coast Guard intends to stabilize its ice-breaking capabilities, assess the need for more people and equipment north of the Bering Strait or off the North Shore and acquire the funding to make any necessary changes, he said.
One major result of climate change will be the recession of Arctic ice and subsequent opening of transportation channels in areas not previously accessible by sea. More cruise ships, oil tankers, fishing boats and other watercraft will be using these areas, increasing the need for Coast Guard manpower and equipment in the region, Allen said.
The two most problematic things in my mind are a large search-and-rescue case or a large mass-disaster response, he said. You can have an incident at sea, and evacuate everyone from a sinking ship, but then youre sitting 700 miles north of Alaska, and you dont know what to do with the people in the life boats.
My big concern is, once an incident like that began, [is] the ability to forward deploy, to get out there and help those folks. We can get aviation assets up there pretty quickly, but aside from some summer deployments, the nearest ships are down by Kodiak, from 900 to 1,100 miles away, he said.
The Coast Guard has no permanent facilities or personnel on the North Slope of Alaska, though Allen said some aircraft operate out of Point Barrow and Nome, including H-60 helicopters and Alaska National Guard Black Hawk helicopters. These have been used primarily to carry doctors, veterinarians, optometrists and dentists to outlying towns.
People rely on their dogs and their livestock up there, he said. People were lining up to get shots for their dogs before they were seeking medical help for themselves.
Establishing bases in the area is not a high priority, the admiral said. Until then, said he added, the Coast Guard will continue its operations with the equipment it has in the area.
We have no permanent footprint up there, he said. Thats one of the decisions were going to have to make on completion of the high-latitude study. That being said, we will continue to deploy to the North Shore every summer, and we continue to get feedback from people on more things we can do with the assets we have.
(Ian Graham works in the Defense Media Activitys emerging media directorate.)
The Coast Guard needs at least three nuclear powered icebreakers capable of going into the Arctic in the winter. Many existing icebreakers can only deploy to the Arctic in the summer. We need a permanent presence north of Alaska for sovereignty reasons. The Arctic contains many untapped natural resources.
Some of what Sarah has been saying about Alaska
right along and its strategic area
Familial interest ping.
Uh... I was stationed on the CGC Polar Sea, in the Arctic, in the winter, breaking ice. They do it all the time. We went there year 'round.
But I would agree about the nuke breakers. We need some. The Polar Class are nice, and they're extremely capable, but there's nothing wrong with taking things up a notch.
They've worked out well but had a rough start. I can remember when they were refered to as Buildings 10 and 11 because of all their downtime.
The nation’s icebreaking ability is diminishing every year as our breakers age. We definitely need some new icebreakers, and yes, nuclear would be nice.
She’s not on an icebreaker, fortunately, but a girl who answered the phone on the boat said they shipped out this afternoon. I assume it’s north, since they’re going to be back in less than a week.
Anoreth would give stranded environmentalists a piece of her mind if she got the chance!
LOL... yep. I was on "building 11". But by the time I got there (about 85) the problems were pretty much fixed. They had nightmare problems with the big variable-pitch props at first. It's a complex system. But they did get them ironed out, and by the time I was there, they worked well.
Side note: There was a huge rivalry, as you might expect, between the Star (10) and the Sea (11). As the first one, it was the Star that had most of the problems, but the Sea didn't have most of those problems. Whenever the Star had to be rescued it was always the Sea that had to cruise up and pull them out of whatever jam they'd gotten themselves into. But it was the Star that was the photo Princess. It used to really frost us on the Sea, that anytime there was a news event about a Polar breaker it was always the Star that hogged the limelight. The worst time was when we on the Sea came back from a particularly gruelling but very successful AWW (Arctic West Winter) 6-month cruise and the local media threw their usual fanfare, the fireboats escorted us into port and all that... very nice. But on the front page of the Seattle Times recording the event... what boat do you suppose they pictured? that's right... the Polar Star. Ughhh. Every damn time... :-)
Well, we do at least have the CGC Healy, commissioned in 2000. So... they're not ALL old salty dogs yet.