02.16.16

Six U.S. Senators Road Trip to Remote Yupik Village for a View of Rural Alaska

OSCARVILLE -- Six U.S. senators, the U.S. energy secretary, Gov. Bill Walker, staffers, media and many others traveled to the village of Oscarville Monday, to see for themselves what a small community with expensive needs looks like.

The village, located about 30 minutes from Bethel, only has about 50 residents.

The journey was made in SUVs and vans driving down the frozen Kuskokwim River past snowmachiners and ice fishermen.

The only building with running water in the village is the school of 17 students.

The group, members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, included Republican Sens. Murkowski (R), John Barrasso of Wyoming (R), Daines (R), Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia (R), Maria Cantwell from Washington (D), Angus King an independent from Maine and Gov. Bill Walker.

Also on the trip was U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, a nuclear physicist.

Moniz announced a $7 million tribal energy program and a new study promising solar energy in Alaska.

School children wearing kuspuks danced, drummed and sang for the delegation. 15-year-old Bethany Ulroan said performing for such a high-ranking crowd was, "scary!"

Chairwoman Murkowski and the rest of the group walked on the boardwalk - essentially the sidewalks for the community.

Gov. Walker played basketball with the students and people in town showed off the frozen fish hanging from shelves outside their homes.

"How do communities like these survive," Murkowski said, "the real future is going to be in how we can figure out how we can collaborate, how we can innovate and that's part of what we're trying to shine the light on."

Eventually Oscarville will get LED lighting and the homes will be weatherized, Moniz said.

"I think what's special here is the effort going on at the holistic approach," Moniz said, "so combining buildings, energy, water, sewage management, communications. Bringing them all together. The idea is to do it here in Oscarville, which obviously is a fairly small community, and then use that as a template to be able to scale up."

Sen. Steve Daines of Montana Snapchatted his trip from Anchorage in Alaska Air National Guard HC-130 to Oscarville.


By:  Rebecca Palsha
Source: KTUU (Alaska)