Alaska’s Needs Advanced, Approved by Appropriations Committee

Fisheries, Coast Guard, Icebreaker and Firefighter Funding Ready for Senate Floor Murkowski Adds Amendment to Protect Juneau from FEMA Red Tape

WASHINGTON, DC — Senator Lisa Murkowski succeeded today in pushing a wide range of Alaskan priorities through the Senate Appropriations process, as the provisions and funding levels that she successfully passed through two subcommittees on Tuesday were advanced and approved by the entire Appropriations Committee this morning.  Those two bills included funding for fishery disasters, Coast Guard operations, icebreaker construction, firefighter grants, tsunami debris funding, prioritizing electronic monitoring for fisherman over human observers, and other Alaska needs -- and are ready for Senate floor consideration.

Additionally, Murkowski was able to add an amendment to the FY2014 Homeland Security Appropriations bill passed today requiring the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reconsider the “bizarre” method it uses to designate regions as ‘flood risk’ and require the imposition of federal regulation.  Presently, communities like Juneau which have built and developed themselves for years have been newly designated as ‘flood risks’ and threatened with one-size-fits-all regulations and higher flood insurance rates.

“For all intents and purposes, FEMA is telling coastal communities that ‘we know best,’” said Murkowski.  “I understand that FEMA is trying to protect areas at risk nationwide, but the administration needs to study the possibility of flood zone waivers where safe development has been proven over time.”

(Murkowski presses FEMA on flood mapping in Alaska, Oct. 2011 – CLICK image to view excerpt)

Coast Guard Operating Expenses Murkowski advocated for funding that doesn’t compromise Alaskans safety due to lower patrol and rescue levels. Today’s bill includes $7.069 billion for USCG operations.

Fisheries Disaster Funding Senator Murkowski’s advocacy to address last year’s fishery disasters nationwide resulted in an allocation of $150 million for fisheries disasters in Alaska, New England and Mississippi.

Electronic Monitoring Hearing the calls of Alaskan fisherman against costly and inefficient federal observers on-board, Murkowski included language that prioritizes NOAA’s attention on the electronic monitors to achieve the same objectives and data needs “instead of putting another human being on a cramped vessel.”

Tsunami Debris Marine debris efforts for Pacific states received $6 million.  With Alaska’s enormous coastline still seeing high volumes of debris from the 2011 Fukushima earthquake and tsunami, Murkowski was able to turn her calls for a better coordinated federal response into language to hold the government’s feet to the fire and report back with their efforts.

$2 million for the USCG Icebreaker Project Through Murkowski’s continuing advocacy, the Committee continues to prioritize funding efforts for these ships as other nations like China and Russia commit to building dozen for future needs

Streamlining the TWIC Process for Alaskans Senator Murkowski has gained a number of improvements to the Transportation Worker Identification Card renewal process, but today’s bill includes language requested by the Senator that requires renewals to be done more efficiently in remote, rural areas.

Steller Sea Lion ESA Designation A flawed 2010 study suggested a dip in the Stellar sea lion population and the shoddy data led to an Endangered Species Act designation, causing “$30 million to $50 million annual reduction in revenue and significant loss of jobs.” Given the recent Center of Independent Experts research that challenges the 2010 study, Murkowski added language requiring NOAA consider this new information as they survey Alaska’s waters.

Rejecting DHS Border Crossing Fee Study – The committee rejected a proposed Department of Homeland Security study that would consider adding a border crossing fee for every American crossing the Canadian or Mexican border – even for church, shopping, work or dining – that Senator Murkowski ripped with a bipartisan group of Senators earlier this year.

Cost/Benefit Study of Porting an NSC in Alaska – When Senator Murkowski recently pressed DHS Secretary Napolitano about the inefficiency of homeporting ships thousands of miles away that patrol Alaskan waters, Napolitano said it was worth looking into for savings.  Murkowski added language requiring DHS to conduct a study investigating this scenario.

Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG and SAFER Grant Program): Senator Murkowski was successful in having the DHS appropriations bill fund these programs at the same levels as the 2013 enacted level, for $675 million.