(Dillingham) - Yesterday in Dillingham Governor Sean Parnell signed a pair of bills authored by Rep. Bryce Edgmon that will significantly benefit rural communities. Both bills passed the Alaska House and Senate unanimously during the 27th Alaska Legislature.
Every locally owned fishing operation adds jobs and dollars to a town and keeps more fisheries earnings in Alaska.
~ Rep. Bryce Edgmon
House Bill 196 puts the Bulk Fuel Revolving Loan Fund (BFRLF) and the bulk fuel bridge loan program in the same agency. Currently the BFRLF is under the Alaska Energy Authority and the bulk fuel bridge loan program is under the Division of Community & Regional Affairs.
"For many communities, having both programs housed in the Division of Community & Regional Affairs (DC&RA) means they can go one place to access either one of the two rural fuel loan programs," Edgmon, D-Dillingham, said. "This one-stop-shopping feature should also help the fuel vendors work with communities to get fuel delivered in a more timely manner."
Edgmon added that the division is very well equipped to provide the appropriate technical assistance that struggling communities need to get their management practices and financial paperwork in order for the long term.
Communities across Alaska, the Department of Commerce & Economic Development, as well as fuel distributors supported the legislation. Governor Parnell also recommended this change in his 2011 Energy Report to the legislature.
House Bill 261 modifies the Commercial Fishing Loan Act to address the economic reality of today's permit costs. The bill doubles the maximum loan amount for entry permits from $100,000 to $200,000.
"In many regions of the stateincluding Bristol Bay, Prince William Sound, and Southeastpermits are selling for well over $100,000," Edgmon said. "It only makes sense that the loan amounts available through our financing program be sufficient to cover current costs."
Edgmon also noted that the new law holds special promise for young Alaskan entrepreneurs, who in recent years have found it more difficult to secure the large amounts of capital needed to launch gainful, life-long fisheries businesses. By helping a larger number of young Alaskans pursue ownership-level careers in fisheries, HB 261 will contribute to efforts to reverse the "graying of the fleet"the worrying increase in the average age of resident skippers in commercial fisheries across Alaska.
"HB 261 is all about fostering small businesses," Edgmon said. "Every locally owned fishing operation adds jobs and dollars to a town and keeps more fisheries earnings in Alaska."
HB 261 will take effect July 1, 2012, and HB 196 will come into force on January 1, 2013.