Project Lead: Leah Cuyno, Don Schug
The primary purpose of this study for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was to document baseline conditions and trends in the Kenai Peninsula Borough (KPB) economy from 2008 to 2020, a period that was marked by multiple external events that influenced the resources and economic vitality of the borough and its communities, including the Great Recession of 2008, the cyclical effects of the boom and bust of oil and gas exploration and development, and the coronavirus pandemic of 2020. The information provided in the report would help BOEM, as well as other federal, state, and local resource management agencies and industries, to understand the major socioeconomic trends and changes in the region in order to evaluate impacts of potential future projects and planning efforts. This research additionally provides information on important data sources for future analyses of this region and highlights information gaps that may be useful targets for future research.
The scope of work of this study required collecting, synthesizing, and analyzing information and socioeconomic indicators on population, economy, and institutions relevant to the KPB region and its communities. In particular, the scope of work involved the following major components:
- Collect and compile baseline data relevant for assessing social and economic effects of future energy development activities in the KPB region. Data collection involved searches of publicly available data sources, outreach to key stakeholders, and targeted literature reviews.
- Describe the components of the KPB economy with focus on oil and gas, recreation, tourism, health care, social services, commercial fishing, and subsistence.
- Describe the socioeconomic structure of the borough and its communities and changes from 2008 to 2020.
- Evaluate the role of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) regional and village corporations in the borough.
- Assess how key events over the 13-year timeframe influenced the regional economy.
The study report provides detailed information on trends in key indicators of regional demographics and economic activities from 2008 to 2020, finding in general that the KPB economy is a microcosm of the state economy with the oil and gas industry, commercial fisheries, tourism, and government as major economic drivers and employment sectors. The KPB economy is substantially dependent upon its rich natural resources, including fish and wildlife to support commercial fishing, recreational opportunities, and subsistence harvests; the oil and gas resources of Cook Inlet; and the magnificent landscapes and waterways that attract tourists. Accordingly, the economy is sensitive to stressors, both internal and external, that affect these natural resources. For example, declining salmon populations, climate change, and limiting access to the region for tourism substantially affected economic activities over the timeframe of the analysis. Future studies of the socioeconomic effects of projects, plans, or events on the region can rely upon the information in this study to characterize the baseline socioeconomic environment. The study additionally advises on key data sources to pursue further analysis of economic activities and industries in the region and highlights gaps in information that may benefit from future study.