Anchorage Daily News OPINION: Infrastructure bill shows Alaska wins when we work across party lines

Good things happen when partisan politics are cast aside, like when our congressional delegation worked in a bipartisan manner to secure “Ted Stevens-like” funding for Alaska in last year’s federal infrastructure bill. I think the significance of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and what it means for our state has not gotten its full due.

Billions of dollars will be coming our way that will improve services for communities all over Alaska, but none more so than in rural Alaska. Significant funds are earmarked for rural water and wastewater, traditional infrastructure, broadband and energy investments. Villages who have survived with little to no essential infrastructure can now be brought into the modern age and empowered to build strong, sustainable communities for future generations.

Here are a few highlights:

  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s office set out to eliminate ”honeybuckets” and to bring safe and modern drinking water and wastewater facilities to rural Alaska. The infrastructure bill does that by allocating $3.5 billion for Indian Health Services sanitation facilities, which is enough to fund most, if not all, water and wastewater project needs.
  • There will be hundreds of millions of dollars for broadband upgrades with a focus on providing high speed, affordable internet in unserved and underserved areas. The Tribal Broadband Connectivity Grant Program also saw a huge increase in funding.
  • With the highest energy costs in the nation, the bill invests in energy infrastructure that will significantly reduce the costs in rural Alaska and position our state as a leader in clean and renewable energy innovation. Additionally, the bill invests in energy efficiency measures that will ensure buildings of all sizes are properly weatherized.
  • There are funds to address the impact of climate change on our outlying communities and funding for tribal climate resilience, adaptation, and community relocation planning, design and implementation of projects. It will help tackle climate challenges facing tribal areas and mitigate wildfires that have become more common and deadly as Alaska experiences longer, hotter and drier summers.
  • The federal infrastructure bill also acknowledges the importance of the subsistence lifestyle, providing millions in funding for harbor and water access points.

It’s only appropriate that the bill includes significant investments in traditional infrastructure for Alaska, like roads, culverts, pedestrian corridors, ports and airports. But I am very grateful the delegation made sure rural communities, and their many needs, were not overlooked in the process.

Now it’s time to put these funds to work on behalf of our smaller communities, many of which do not enjoy the luxury of basic services like clean drinking water and quality internet. I intend to do everything I can in the Legislature to ensure rural Alaska gets the full benefit of this historic funding.

By:  Bryce Edgmon
Source: Anchorage Daily News