Delta Discovery: 117th Congress Featured Big Wins for YK Delta Region

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 the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region.

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

 Significant funding is heading to the entire region for broadband, which will positively impact connectivity, reliability, and affordability. Bethel will receive funding for airport improvements, and there’s still a lot more to come.

 Working with local leaders, we also leveraged my position as a senior appropriator to directly fund nearly 200 projects across the state.

 To help Alaskans train for good-paying jobs, Yuut Elitnaurviat will receive $9.9 million to expand its main training building and to provide a permanent home for the Kuskokwim Learning Academy.

 We also included funding for Alakanuk and Tununak for basic water and wastewater infrastructure, for ecological and salmon monitoring in the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers, to address the large data gap regarding salmon populations on the Yukon River, and for implementation of the Intertribal Federal Subsistence Cooperative Management Program at the Kuskokwim River Watershed.

 To further address food security, we funded a microgrants program I created to enable more food to be grown in Alaska. And we expanded summer meal programs to ensure children maintain access to nutritious meals when school is out.

 We celebrate the historic salmon returns in Bristol Bay, but other fisheries in our state – and the communities that depend on them – are or have recently been in crisis. To provide relief and help tide Alaskans over, we secured multiple rounds of fishery disaster assistance, including for Tribes. We chartered a federal research task force to help us get to the bottom of the alarming salmon declines. I also provided funding for research, surveys, management, indigenous co-management, marine debris removal, reforms to the fishery disaster approval process, and related priorities.

 Another emphasis was ensuring that Alaska will remain a place of unrivaled natural splendor. We invested in outdoor recreation and trails, added new tools and resources to prevent and fight wildfires, and greatly advanced the effort to remediate abandoned wells. To tackle another environmental catastrophe, I created an EPA program to clean up contaminated lands that have been conveyed to Alaskans.

 Finally, we took great care to address some of most acute sources of pain and suffering in our state. I helped reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, and inserted a pilot program that will allow Tribes to partner with the State on community safety. To address public safety in rural Alaska, I provided direct funding for trooper housing. I also continued to prioritize the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women and children, devoted real resources to reducing homelessness, and improved access to care for mental and behavioral health services.

 While 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 three land conveyances that will help improve Alaska Native medical access around the state.

 I also want to thank all in Bethel who supported Rebecca Trimble and her family over the years, and urged Congress to help resolve her special case. Against the odds, we passed the first private relief bill in years to ensure Mrs. Trimble has a pathway to lawful permanent resident status and can remain in the only country she has ever called home.

 As the 118th Congress begins, I’m proud of what our congressional delegation accomplished over the last two years, and 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: Delta Discovery