June 10, 2010 |

Borough officials lobby in D.C.

The Haines Borough recently spent $7,500 sending three leaders on a lobbying trip to Washington, D.C. The money was well spent, according to Mayor Jan Hill, assemblyman Jerry Lapp and facilities manager Brad Maynard, who made the four-day trip.

The group met with U.S.senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich and staff of U.S. Rep. Don Young. Other meetings included with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials, National Association of Counties, and officials with the Alaska governor’s office based in Washington.

The most significant news of the trip was learning that harbor expansion funding may be forthcoming.

"We got very positive feedback that barring a similar situation as last year when there was a stop to the new-start money, we’re eligible for funding. The boat harbor is a top priority for all of our Congressional delegation," Hill said.

Maynard was able to ask questions about details about the harbor project that have changed since the borough’s last trip to Washington a year ago, she said.

The delegation’s second priority for Haines is securing money to replace aging asbestos water pipes in the townsite.

Borough officials also met with Alaska officials based in Washington about the town’s role in a possible natural gas pipeline project. "They’re all aware we have deep water port. But they’re still using the word ‘if’ the project moves forward. They’re optimistic but they can’t say until it’s a done deal."

Hill characterized borough investment in the project as a chicken-egg situation. "We want to be prepared for the project but you don’t want to invest too much until you’re sure it’s going to happen. That’s why some of these questions are ambiguous, because we don’t have any guarantees."

Although the borough spends $50,400 annually for Washington, D.C-lobbyist Brad Gilman, it’s important that elected leaders have face time with Washington leaders as well.

"I know as Mayor, when you’re sitting across the table from constituents, it makes a difference. When people come to my office, I appreciate hearing what’s on their mind. People can sit in the coffee shop and complain but the reality is, to make change, you need to go talk to the people who make the decisions. It’s a public process."

Lapp said the give-and-take between borough leaders and national officials at such meetings is important. "When you’re there in person, you can explain things they don’t understand."

Explaining maps, for example, was important for Congressional leaders to comprehend changes in harbor plans. It was also good for showing plans for lands around Lutak Dock if Haines is used as a staging area for a gas pipeline.

"It helped show our plans if we start hauling freight in terms of what we have for shipping and storage of pipe. It was good for them to see that."

"Once in a while a face-to-face meeting is good thing. You probably wouldn’t want to do it more than once a year," Lapp said.