Petersburg Pilot OPINION: 117th Congress featured big wins for Petersburg

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 Petersburg and across Southeast.

 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 already been announced for Alaska. Those dollars are helping us build, expand, and modernize everything from our 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.

 Specific investments that I included in the infrastructure law should support the Marine Highway System to help restore connections for Petersburg and Southeast Alaska, so residents and businesses can once again rely on this critical transport. 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 projects across the state without adding to federal spending levels.

 Working with leaders in Petersburg, I was proud to secure funds to support the construction of a new hospital, bringing the community closer to a new, modernized facility. We also secured funding to upgrade Petersburg’s water treatment plant—another critical project that will benefit the health of the community. 

 Alaska received $33 million in Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) funds, including over $650,000 to Petersburg Borough, in the last Fiscal Year alone. As Ranking Member of the Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, I ensured the program was fully funded so that communities like Petersburg can budget for essential services.

 We’ve provided historic investments in our Alaska-based Coast Guard—upgrading assets, investing in shoreside infrastructure, and improving emergency communications. Through the Don Young Coast Guard Reauthorization Act, we’re working to improve the quality of life and mental health of those who serve.

 To honor our ironclad obligations to veterans, we passed the PACT Act, which will ensure healthcare access and treatment for all who are impacted by toxic exposures.

 Legislation like my BLUE GLOBE Act will support the rapidly growing blue economy—allowing coastal communities like Petersburg to invest in technology innovations and protect our oceans while spurring economic development and growth in ocean-based 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 additional research, indigenous co-management, surveys, fisheries management, marine debris removal, transboundary watershed monitoring, and related priorities.  

 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, 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 those experiencing mental and behavioral health issues.

 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, including three land conveyances that will help improve Alaska Native medical access. 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—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: Petersburg Pilot