Cordova Times: 117th Congress featured big wins for Cordova

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 advanced during it will produce lasting benefits for Cordova.

 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 water, broadband and energy systems. In doing so, they’re creating jobs, boosting our economy and transforming lives.

 Through the bipartisan infrastructure bill, we have secured funding to support the Cordova Municipal Airport and the Merle K. “Mudhole” Smith Airport. The area has also been selected to receive significant funding to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network that will connect over 1,100 people and more than 50 businesses to high-speed internet.

 The investments I added to the infrastructure bill to support ferry services should help us rebuild the Marine Highway System and go far in restoring connections while creating a more reliable future for it. The recent announcement of $285 million for the Alaska Marine Highway System will allow us to upgrade docks, modernize several vessels, replace an aging vessel and design a new mainliner—restoring and improving service in many coastal communities. Cordova, Tatitlek and Chenega will also receive a total of $28.2 million in port infrastructure development grants for upgrades and modifications at their ferry terminals.

 We also added historic investments for the Coast Guard, which will support their operations across Alaska and improve quality of life for those who serve.

 In addition to the infrastructure bill, the budget packages we passed included hundreds of millions of dollars in standard allocations for Alaska. We also leveraged my position as a senior appropriator to directly fund nearly 200 projects across the state without adding to federal spending levels.

 Through the Congressionally Directed Spending process, I secured support to help protect Alaska’s waters through statewide surveys of invasive species, including elodea, which impacts Eyak Lake and the Copper River Delta. 

 Many 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 chartered a federal salmon task force to help get to the bottom of these alarming declines. We also secured funding for research, surveys, fisheries management, Indigenous co-management, marine debris removal, transboundary watershed monitoring and related priorities.

 Legislation like my BLUE GLOBE Act will support the blue economy—allowing coastal communities like Cordova to invest in technology to better protect our oceans while also spurring economic development and growth in ocean-based jobs.

 To diversify our economy, the 117th Congress approved funding that will be used to help establish a mariculture industry that could someday run all along our southern coast. We funded a microgrants program I created to enable more food to be grown in Alaska, and passed my legislation to provide up to 360,000 acres to the University—helping to fulfill its land grant in support of its students, faculty and campus infrastructure.

 To ensure that our state remains a place of unrivaled natural splendor, we invested in outdoor recreation and trails, new tools and resources to prevent and fight wildfires and stood up an EPA program to clean up contaminated lands that have been conveyed to Alaskans.

 To promote public safety and community health, 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.

 Finally, while we miss Congressman Don Young every day, we honored his legacy by passing many of the bills he was working on, including three land conveyances that will help improve Alaska Native medical access around the state. 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 last two years, and am 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 be doing everything I can to deliver for you and for Alaska.

By:  Lisa Murkowski
Source: Cordova Times