OPINION: Kodiak Daily Mirror: $210M heading to Coast Guard Base Kodiak

Last week, the U.S. Coast Guard released a spending plan for the $429 million that Congress allocated to it through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. In a welcome development for Alaska, Base Kodiak will receive nearly half of that total – $210 million – for key projects including a new fuel pier, housing, and a child development center.

This is great news for Kodiak and one of the biggest victories Alaska has yet had under the new infrastructure law. But it didn't happen by accident.

As I helped write and negotiate the bipartisan infrastructure bill over the course of 2021, it was apparent that the Coast Guard was not among the agencies set to receive funding. To me, that was simply unacceptable, because the Coast Guard is so critical to Alaskans – from search and rescue, to maintenance of buoys and patrolling the Maritime Boundary Line to increase our maritime domain awareness, to Arctic research and other activities.

I knew my colleagues from states like Ohio or Montana wouldn't necessarily recognize the importance of funding the Coast Guard in an infrastructure bill. I also knew that a big portion of the Coast Guard's unfunded priorities list was made up of Alaska projects, so I made this a priority. After further discussion, the core group of us negotiating the bill agreed to address the infrastructure-specific sections of the Coast Guard's list.

The next challenge I faced was ensuring that federal dollars would go to projects that benefit Alaska. It can be uphill battle explaining how different and vast Alaska is compared to other states – but the time and effort were well worth it.

In total, the Coast Guard will direct $227.5 million from the new infrastructure law to Alaska for projects in Kodiak, Seward, and Ketchikan.

That includes $130 million for fuel pier replacement and improvements to support the National Security Cutters, soon-to-be Kodiak homeported Offshore Patrol Cutters and Fast Response Cutters, and other vessels.

Some $40 million will go to new housing for Coast Guard families, and another $40 million will be used to construct a new child development center. This will help meet increased capacity needs, allow the current child development center to be moved out of the tsunami zone, and generally increase local quality of life.

In Seward, the Coast Guard will devote $13.5 million to new housing to support Fast Response Cutter crews and their families. A final $4 million will go to the Ketchikan industrial facility to support Coast Guard cutters and boats in Southeast.

The Coast Guard likes to say that its mission "starts and ends at the pier," which emphasizes the importance of shoreside infrastructure. We were able to secure new cutters in the last few rounds of appropriations, but they need piers just as much as our Coasties and their families need adequate childcare and housing.

As I repeatedly told my colleagues, being stationed in Kodiak isn't like being stationed in the Lower 48, where there are many options for housing and service members can often commute from neighboring towns. In Kodiak, housing options are limited, and we need to make sure they are good so that all who serve can continue to enjoy their assignment on our Emerald Isle.

I've been a long-time advocate for all of America's military members, including the men and women of the Coast Guard. The work those individuals do can literally be the difference between life and death for Alaskans. But even beyond that, our servicemembers, their spouses, and their children become important parts of our Alaska family - valued within communities and across our state. We must continue to do all we can to ensure their livelihoods are supported so they have the tools and infrastructure necessary to carry out their important missions.

Throughout my work to author and advance the bipartisan infrastructure law, the men and women of our military remained front of mind. I'm proud the funding I helped secure for the Coast Guard will support a number of critical projects in Alaska, most notably in Kodiak, which the agency has sought to address for decades but never been able to complete. I credit the late Congressman Don Young for gathering enough votes in the House to move this infrastructure bill across the finish line. I think it's safe to say this funding would not have happened without his unrelenting support for Alaskans and the Coast Guard.

I look forward to real progress on these projects, and further announcements as our historic infrastructure bill continues to deliver for communities throughout Alaska.

By:  Senator Lisa Murkowski
Source: Kodiak Daily Mirror