SitNews: Alaska Priorities Secured in Funding Bill

(SitNews) - Numerous Alaska priorities including funding for aviation, weather satellites, fisheries enhancement and rural development are contained in an appropriations bill supported by U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) & U. S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) which passed the Senate yesterday. The appropriations bill, which funds numerous federal departments, is now on its way to President Obama’s desk.

“Alaska has unique needs, from accurate weather forecasting to safe aviation for our rural communities, and I’m pleased we successfully fought to fund them in this legislation,” Sen. Begich said. “These critical investments in Alaska’s ferries, airports and communities will provide businesses the access and resources needed to create jobs and promote efforts to revitalize our economy."

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski supported final passage of an appropriations bill that combines three appropriations bills – meaning millions for Alaska’s infrastructure and industry in the next fiscal year have been sent to President Obama for his signature.  Murkowski serves on the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee and 6 different Appropriations Subcommittees.

When signed, many Alaskan imperatives can now count on resources for the next year, including:

Village Safe Water: Also known as Rural Alaska Native Village Grants, the program is funded at approximately $23 million. VSW funds are used to build ‘washeterias,’ septic tanks, piped systems and holding tanks to provide potable water to a community.

Alaska Ferry Construction: $7.5 million will be directed to maintain current ferries and/or new ferries, along with related infrastructure.

Essential Air Service (EAS) program: $144 million will be allocated to EAS – a $14 million increase over 2011 levels.  This means every airport currently in the EAS program can continue receiving the subsidy for the next fiscal year, and over 40 Alaska airports from Gustavus to Atka will have commercial air service.

FAA Improvements: The FAA nationwide will receive $3 billion in Airport Improvement Programs funds, with an added $10 million to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport for upkeep and maintenance at the state’s largest passenger and cargo hub.

Joint Polar Satellite System: $924 million will fund crucial weather tracking technology, as well as monitor beacons that save lives.  JPSS continues to improve America’s environmental, weather, climate and oceanographic science and research – along with medium- and long-term weather forecasts.

Marine Spatial Planning – Federal funding was removed from the NOAA program – as insisted upon by Senator Murkowski – that would have allowed the Executive Branch to dictate how States can and cannot use oceans and coasts. Sen. Begich led the charge in the Senate to ensure the $924 million funding of a NOAA weather satellite which is critical for Alaska. The Joint Polar Satellite System will ensure that Alaskans have the accurate weather forecasts they need to safely travel around the state by air, boat, or snow machine.  The satellite will also help pinpoint the location of emergency beacons and relay signals to rescuers when things go wrong.

High Energy Cost Grants: $9.5 million is directed to the program, after the President attempted to zero out the program in his budget.  Historically, approximately half of the high energy cost grant funding goes to Alaska needs.

Pacific Salmon Treaty: $9.6 million dollars will fund Pacific Salmon Treaty-related activities and compliance with the 1985 accord with Canada.  Those dollars will help maintain stock and monitor fishery activities, and also ensure compliance with treaty conservation and harvest sharing commitments.

Fishery Stock Assessments: $63 million will be disbursed to the nation’s fisheries to provide the most timely and accurate data possible, informing decisions such as quota numbers – an increase requested by Senator Murkowski from the $51 million provided in FY11.

Assisting Alaska Farmers: Alaska and Hawaii share in $2 million from the Reimbursement Transportation Cost Payment Program for Geographically Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers which helps cover a portion of the high cost of transporting goods to the Alaska & Hawaii.

Office on Violence Against Women: $500,000 to establish a national clearinghouse that provides training and technical assistance on issues relating to sexual assault of American Indian and Alaska Native women.


Source: Originally published on November 19, 2011