President signs Alaska cruise ship bill

Could a state of Florida lawsuit threaten Alaska’s cruise ship season? Lawyers for the CDC make their case.

A (future) alternative to cruise ship tourism may be to hike across Alaska, as the (Very) Long Trail nears approval.

And Alaska’s U.S. senators are not about to let a hybrid salmon maker off the hook.

These are some of the five things to know this week in Alaska politics.

 

Florida’s court case and Alaska cruises

In what seems increasingly like a game of one upmanship, CDC lawyers claim that a Florida lawsuit challenging the federal agency’s Covid health-safety rules for cruises could end Alaska voyages just as they are about to resume.

Federal legislation by Alaska’s delegation recently was signed into law as a temporary exemption to required Canada stops. But CDC lawyers argue that the federal waiver implicitly approved the federal agency’s cruise ship rules.

If Florida wins a court injunction to block the CDC order, it could potentially end Alaska cruises in 2021, according to media reports. 

Several cruise lines already announced plans to sail to Alaska for the first time since the Covid pandemic canceled trips in 2020, with fully vaccinated crews and new health-safety requirements in place. 

 

Scholarship memorializes House Majority Leader

A scholarship in memory of House Speaker Romana “Gail” Phillips and her contributions to Alaska has been set up for students at University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The Gail Phillips Alaskan Leader Scholarship recognizes Phillips’ life and achievements, which included serving as the second female House Speaker in the Alaska Legislature.

Phillips, who died in March, was among a who’s who in Alaska politics. She was born in Juneau when Alaska was a territory. A graduate of UAF, Phillips first won a seat in the Alaska Legislature in 1991. 

According to an online obituary, she was “following in the footsteps of her Grandfather who was in the 25th Alaska Territorial legislature.”

In 1993, Phillips became House Majority Leader and later rose to House Speaker.

Phillips is remembered as an enterprising small business owner. She was one of the world’s top snowshoe sellers (for Sherpa shoes), when she and her husband ran Quiet Sports, a sporting goods shop.

A memorial service for Phillips included former Gov. Sean Parnell, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Congressman Don Young, among other GOP leaders. 

 

Long Trail may have a short path to approval

A proposed 530-mile multi-use trail dubbed the Alaska Long Trail, which would run from Fairbanks to Seward, may have a short path to approval by the state Legislature.

More than $13 million for the proposed trail is included in the Alaska state budget, pending approval by lawmakers. 

Proponents of the Alaska Long Trail say it could rival the famed Appalachian Trail in popularity. Among supporters are Gov. Mike Dunleavy, the state tourism industry and the nonprofit Alaska Trails.

“With some of the most stunning wilderness in the world, Alaska is long overdue in creating a world-class long trail of its own,” according to the Alaska Trails website. 

Alaska Trails envisions the Long Trail eventually running for more than 2,000 miles, “from Fairbanks to the Brooks Range and the North Slope, and south to a future SE Long Trail, following an alluring mix of trails and ferry rides.”

Initial funding for the project is just the start and may come from federal Covid relief dollars. The money may be used to leverage other funding sources and projects related to the Alaska Trail. The Alaska Long Trail is expected to take several years to complete.

 

Ex-Alaska airbus has a new lease on flight

An Alaska Airlines-branded airbus winged its way across Europe with a final stop in Spain.

The A320 was not ferrying European passengers back to Alaska for a far north vacation. 

It is on lease from Carlyle Aviation Partners Ltd. to the Spanish low-cost carrier Volotea, according to Simple Flying, an aviation news blog.

Carlyle buys aircraft and leases the planes under contract to airlines around the world

The 15-year-old airbus will be rebranded “Love At First Flight” at its new Mallorca home airport, according to Simple Flying.

 

About that frankenfish from Indiana

Sen. Lisa Murkowski is not about to let genetically engineered salmon off the hook, as AquaBounty of Massachusetts recently started selling its hybrid salmon in the U.S. market.

Murkowski has re-introduced a bill calling for “clear labels on genetically engineered salmon.” The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Dan Sullivan.

The lab-modified salmon are designed to grow faster and get to market quickly. They are part Atlantic salmon, chinook salmon and ocean pout. Murkowski has described the lab salmon as frankenfish.

AquaBounty’s fish are raised in land-locked Indiana, according to the company, so there is no risk of the fish populating in the natural environment.

Murkowski is concerned that consumers will fork over money for lab-engineered salmon, with the assumption they purchased the real thing.

“If we are going to allow this fake fish to be sold in stores, there must be clear labeling,” Murkowski said in a prepared statement about the FDA-approved fish.

The bill requires genetically engineered (GE) salmon products sold in the U.S. to be clearly labeled “genetically engineered” in the market name.

The bill would apply not just to AquaBounty’s products but any GE salmon headed to market.

“As an Alaskan who knows the tremendous benefits of eating healthy, wild Alaskan salmon, it’s imperative that Americans have the information to make that choice,” Murkwoski said. “When you splice DNA from another animal and combine it with farmed salmon, you are essentially creating a new species, and I have serious concerns with that.”

Contact political reporter Linda F. Hersey at 459-7575 or follow her at twitter.com/FDNMpolitics.