Anchorage Daily News OPINION: Anchorage got some big wins from the 117th Congress

Earlier this month, the 117th Congress formally adjourned, marking the close of a remarkably productive legislative stretch for Alaska. The last Congress was one of the best for our state in recent memory, and the bipartisan bills we passed during it will produce lasting benefits for Alaska and the Anchorage area.

 Most significant is the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which I played a lead role on. In just over a year, roughly $3 billion from it has been announced for Alaska. Those dollars are helping us build, expand and modernize everything from roads, bridges, ports and airports to our water, energy, broadband and ferry systems. In doing so, they’re creating jobs, boosting our economy and transforming lives.

 In Anchorage, we will see upgrades at the Ted Stevens International, Lake Hood and Merrill Field airports. The Port of Alaska, which handles roughly half of all cargo brought into our state, has been selected to receive a major grant that will facilitate critical renovations and improvements, including repairs to its north end.

 In addition to the infrastructure law, we leveraged my position as a senior appropriator to directly fund nearly 200 projects without adding to spending levels.

 Here, again, Anchorage stands to benefit. To cite a few examples, we provided funding to expand the Alaska Native Medical Center’s emergency room, provide new vehicles and better equipment to the Anchorage Police Department, implement the Municipality’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan, ensure the safe disposal of wastewater, and for site improvements at the Port of Alaska.

 On the defense front, we secured funding for a runway extension and maintenance hangar at JBER. We made historic investments in the Coast Guard and established the Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies in Anchorage to help advance our strategic interests in the far north.

 As we strengthened our national security, we approved a more than 7% pay raise for active-duty service members, special duty pay and quality-of-life benefits for those stationed in Alaska, and resources to help address the alarming rate of military suicides.

 To honor our ironclad obligations to veterans, we passed the PACT Act, which will ensure health care access and treatment for all who are impacted by toxic exposures.

 We celebrate the historic salmon returns in Bristol Bay, but other fisheries in our state — and the communities that depend on them — are in crisis. To provide relief and help tide Alaskans over, we secured multiple rounds of fishery disaster assistance. We also funded new fishery surveys and chartered a federal research task force to get to the bottom of these alarming declines.

 To help commercialize Alaska’s natural gas reserves, we modernized the loan guarantee for the gas line to make the current project eligible and provided funding to AGDC for analysis related to its Front-End Engineering and Design study.

 We funded a microgrants program I created to enable more food to be grown in Alaska, which has now made awards to hundreds of individuals and nonprofits across our state.

 We also boosted the University of Alaska. We passed my legislation to provide 360,000 acres to fulfill its land grant in support of students, faculty and campus infrastructure, while simultaneously securing direct funding for nine university projects. At the University of Alaska Anchorage, those funds will be used to implement a forensic training program for health care providers and advocates; expand business development services; and renovate facilities for nursing education, telehealth training and interprofessional education programs.

 Another priority was ensuring that we are able to enjoy our extraordinary outdoors. We invested in outdoor recreation and trails, funded repairs for the failing Denali Road, and added new tools and resources to prevent and fight wildfires. To tackle environmental messes left behind by our own government, I created an EPA program to clean up contaminated lands that have been conveyed to Alaskans and further advanced the effort to remediate abandoned wells.

 Finally, we took great care to address some of most acute sources of pain and suffering in our state. We reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, continued to prioritize the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and children, devoted real resources to reducing homelessness, and improved access to mental and behavioral health services.

 Among other welcome developments, Covenant House will be able to implement a statewide training program to address homelessness, while Providence will be able to construct a Crisis Stabilization Center. We also passed the Emergency Family Stabilization Act, legislation I cosponsored to provide $800 million across the nation to help homeless youth, children, and families.

 While we still have a hole in our hearts from the loss of Congressman Don Young, we honored his legacy by passing many of the bills he was working on, including a conveyance of land in Anchorage to the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. We also named one of the most active volcanoes in the Aleutians after him.

 As the 118th Congress begins, I’m proud of what your congressional delegation accomplished over the past two years, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue serving the state and people I love. Rest assured that for as long as I have the honor of being your senator, I will do everything I can to deliver for you and for Alaska.

By:  Lisa Murkowski
Source: Anchorage Daily News