Ketchikan Daily OPINION: 117th Congress featured big wins for Ketchikan

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 Ketchikan.

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

 The bipartisan infrastructure law includes investments to deploy fiber broadband on Prince of Wales Island and in Metlakatla, along with substantial support that should go to the Marine Highway System to help reconnect Ketchikan and Southeast Alaskans. The recent announcement of $285 million for the Alaska Marine Highway System will allow us to upgrade docks in five communities, modernize several vessels including the Tazlina and Kennicott, and design a new mainliner.

 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 critical projects across the state without adding to overall spending levels.

 Leaders in Ketchikan and across the region shared their priorities with me—and now, funding is going to the Ketchikan Gateway Borough and Craig to upgrade their wastewater treatment plants. We also secured the funds needed to repair the crumbling Schoenbar Culvert, for airport upgrades, to deploy electric buses, and for a new CT scanner at the PeaceHealth Medical Center.

 Over the past two years, we likewise prioritized improving the quality of life for our servicemembers, and supported and modernized the Coast Guard through the Don Young Coast Guard Reauthorization Act. The bipartisan infrastructure law provided further investments for the Coast Guard—including a 65-ton crane for the Ketchikan industrial facility.

 Legislation like my BLUE GLOBE Act will support the rapidly growing blue economy, allowing coastal communities like Ketchikan to harness technology innovations and protect our oceans while spurring economic development and creating jobs. Its passage will pair nicely with the excellent work being done to establish a vibrant mariculture industry in Southeast.

 Knowing how important healthy fisheries are to Alaska, we chartered a federal research task force to get to the bottom of our alarming salmon declines. I also secured funding for the two NOAA research vessels that will be homeported in Ketchikan, as well as for fisheries management, new surveys, indigenous co-management, marine debris removal, transboundary watershed monitoring, and related priorities.  

 We saved the 2021 cruise season through the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act, paving the way for an even stronger rebound this past summer. Small businesses in Ketchikan and across Southeast were able to host visitors, meet payroll, and feed their families.

 I helped reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, continued to prioritize the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women and children, devoted real resources to homelessness, and improved access to mental and behavioral health services.

 In Ketchikan, this included funding to support the final stages of construction of the Women in Safe Homes’ (WISH) shelter, and for improvements at the First City Homeless Services shelter to support homeless individuals.

 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. We also named one of the most active volcanoes in the Aleutians after him.

 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: Ketchikan Daily