There is tremendous excitement in the Bristol Bay fishing community of Dillingham today as residents brace for the arrival of President Barack Obama.
Among scheduled events for his visit are private meetings with fishermen.
It’s one of four stops in Alaska on the president’s historic three-day visit to the state.
On Aug. 31 the president delivered a major speech on climate change before the GLACIER – Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience – in Anchorage. He warned that if nothing is done, “temperatures in Alaska are projected to rise between 6 and 12 degrees by the end of the century, triggering more melting, more fires, more thawing of the permafrost.”
Obama called for sweeping collective action on climate change, which has already begun to have some impact on fisheries.
The president’s visit to Dillingham is a Bristol Bay and Alaska event, said Norm Van Vactor, of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. “Everybody is just pumped. We are putting our best foot forward.” Residents are prepared to offer President Obama tastes of a wide range of the best of their wild Alaska sockeye salmon, from traditional to modern and everything in between, Van Vactor said.
The welcome mat is already out in force, with signs including opposition to the proposed Pebble mine near the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed. Former Republican state senate President Rick Halford, an outspoken opponent of the Pebble mine, has been flying folks from the Obama contingent in town for the past few days around on sight seeing tours, and white House aides have been guests of local folks who invited them for home cooked dinners.
Kim Williams, executive director of Nunamta Aulukestai, Caretakers of our Land, in Dillingham, said she planned to thank Obama for protecting Bristol Bay from offshore drilling. But Williams, herself a commercial harvester, said she will tell Obama his help is needed in protecting the region’s rivers and streams from mining.
Williams is among many residents preparing a gourmet feast of many varieties of salmon and other wild Alaska seafood for the president to sample, from smoked salmon to fillets of fish, salmon dips and agutak – the Eskimo ice cream that includes wild salmon and other fish among its ingredients. “We’re just giving him a little of the flavor of Bristol Bay,” Williams said.