E-Newsletter for August 26, 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Greetings, Alaska!

August is marked down on the U.S. Senate schedule as a “State Work Period” for lawmakers to head back home. So I have to chuckle when I hear some call it “recess” as if it’s some sort of vacation at a playground. I work just as hard during August on the home front as I do when I’m back on Capitol Hill. Day in and day out I’m traveling all around the state determined to hear from as many Alaskans as I can about your opinions, your hopes, and your concerns- and I want you to know, I am learning from each and every one of you. Thank you for your time and for your engagement as we work to make Alaska a better place for our families and our future.

Though I usually share my Washington, D.C. policy updates with you in this e-newsletter, I figured I’d do a little more ‘show’ than ‘tell’ in this one, and share more pictures than usual of my trips around the state connecting with you.

(With members of the Air Force’s Thunderbirds at the Arctic Thunder Air Show at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. Exceptional aviators!)


(The performance at the Air Show is phenomenal…what a sense of pride that we have as Alaskans to watch our military, both the aircraft and the men and women who fly them!)


(I got a chance to catch up with these hard-working Alaskans at the Petro Star Refinery in Valdez, doing critical work in helping our state tap into our rich natural resources.)

(In Fairbanks, I had great conversations with women in the mining industry, to make sure mining works for Alaska.)


(I took my first steps across the Tanana River Bridge walking and talking with Fairbanks journalist Dermot Cole. This piece of infrastructure, the newest and longest bridge in the state, we hope one day will serve as a link between Alaska, Canada, and the Lower 48.)


(In Fairbanks, I spoke at the annual TCC Alaska Tribal Court Development Conference, which focused on expanding the role of tribal courts in our state.)


(The Kenai/Soldotna Chamber of Commerce was kind enough to invite me to talk with them and give them an update on developments in Washington, D.C. – we talked about reforming the Senate process, taking care of our veterans, and fighting off Frankenfish.  Click the image to watch.)


(What a view! I literally got a birds-eye look at the Blue Lake Expansion Project in Sitka. This project aims to provide over 25% more electricity for Sitka. Southeast Alaska is a true leader when it comes to hydro power!)


(Suzan and Rick Hess run a great operation at Baranof Island Brewing in Sitka!)

As co-chair of the Senate Small Brewer’s Caucus, I try to check in on Alaska’s wonderful local breweries all around the state.  I make it a priority to visit these economic success stories whenever I’m in a community with a brewery to hear firsthand their thoughts, ideas, and challenges. Breweries are a growth industry in our state and a source of community pride!

(Meeting with the owners and operators of the Haines Brewing Company.  Of course, I had to taste test the Spruce Tip beer for quality assurance…I highly recommend it!)


(In Haines, I also visited the Soboleff-McRae Veterans Village and Wellness Center. When the construction is completed, this center will be a huge asset and help to the well-deserving vets in the Southeast.)

(In Klukwan, the Jilkaat Kwaan Cultural Heritage Center is a work in progress that is bringing artifacts of regional importance back home so their cultural importance can be shared with their people. It will also serve as an educational tool for visitors….keeping this Alaska Native village’s culture alive.)


(Looking at the carved canoe that was paddled from Klukwan to Juneau for Celebration this year.)


(I am always impressed by all of the moving parts of Alaska’s fishing industry. I enjoyed an up close & personal view of the slime line at the Trident plant in Ketchikan. We discussed the importance of the J-1 Visa program to ensure our fish plants are able to secure the employees they need to operate efficiently.)


(I traveled down to the U.S. Coast Guard base in Kodiak to personally thank our Coast Guard men and women for their commitment and service to our state.)


(Vice Admiral Charles Ray and I toured the USCG’s ‘fish school’ in Kodiak where Coasties learn about enforcing fisheries management and navigating through Alaska’s challenging waters – look at this 21st century life boat!)


(While we were in Kodiak, Vice Admiral Ray and I led a groundbreaking ceremony for new on-base housing.  Housing has long been a huge challenge there, and the fact that the Coast Guard has prioritized new housing on the island is a strong indicator of the long-term commitment to Kodiak Air Station.)


(In Anchorage, I was honored to attend the Coast Guard Foundation dinner to celebrate the men and women of the Coast Guard.)


(What a privilege it was to have the Secretary of the Department of Energy, Ernest Moniz, join me at the Chena Hot Springs Renewable Energy Fair and listen to one of Alaska’s top energy innovators, Bernie Karl.)


(Bernie Karl is a leader in food security, growing lettuce and tomatoes in his greenhouse heated by low temperature geothermal at Chena Hot Springs.)


(Secretary Moniz and I took a tour of the Permafrost Tunnel, which is just outside of Fairbanks. This tunnel takes us back tens of thousands of years in attempting to understand the change in our climate in Alaska…just incredible!)


(In Soldotna, I sat down with all the different authorities and responders for a debrief on the Funny River Fire.  I wanted to find out what lessons were learned in dealing with this disaster. I’m thankful for all the responders who worked incredibly hard to keep the community safe.)


(Down on the Kenai Peninsula, I took part in the 2nd Annual Kenai River Classic Roundtable to share my thoughts and priorities about carefully balancing all the different interests while ensuring sustainable fisheries.)


(I appreciated the chance to share a D.C. update with the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce and hear from hard-working Alaskan entrepreneurs who are really working overtime to build something special. It was also an honor to receive the U.S. Chamber's Spirit of Enterprise Award.)