Kodiak Daily Mirror: Murkowski determined to get federal help to clean marine debris

Alaska fishermen and beachgoers are asking for help — but none is coming anytime soon from Congress.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives stripped millions in fishery and marine debris aid from a bill intended to benefit Hurricane Sandy victims. A Senate version of the bill included $150 million to cover fisheries disasters in New England, Alaska and Sandy-affected states. Millions more was intended to go to Pacific coast states facing a wave of debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami.

House Republicans, opposed to “pork” in the Sandy bill, have submitted a thinner version to the Senate, and that version is expected to gain approval.

In an interview Wednesday, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she is still determined to get Alaska federal help to clean up debris that washes up on Alaska shores.

“I think we recognize that what we saw this summer was just the beginning, and for our coastal communities, this is a big burden for them,” she said. “I think it’s fair to say there’s a great deal of work that needs to be done.”

Murkowski recently returned from a trip to Taiwan and Japan, where she saw the extent of tsunami damage.

Sen. Mark Begich said he will continue to work for fisheries aid through other means. “I have no desire to hold up funding for victims of Hurricane Sandy, but I implore my colleagues to remember Alaskans’ plight and that of other disaster victims across the country,” said Begich in a statement. “The federal government went through its formal process to declare these disasters and has an obligation to provide some relief to victims.”

In the House, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) repeatedly cosponsored amendments that would restore the fisheries aid but was unsuccessful. “Although the fisheries disaster funds for Alaska were not included in the final legislation, Congressman Young will continue to explore any and all avenues to ensure that Alaskans receive funds related to the fishery disaster declared last fall,” Young spokesman Mike Anderson told the Alaska Journal of Commerce.

Senate passage of a Sandy aid bill is expected before the end of the month.



Source: By James Brooks