Murkowski Announces Big Wins for Alaska in Infrastructure Bill
Invests in Critical Infrastructure to Create Jobs, Strengthen Energy Security
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), a key negotiator of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, announced significant funding to support Alaskan infrastructure projects. Sunday night, Senator Murkowski and her colleagues unveiled the text of their bill, which is now before the full Senate for consideration. The bipartisan bill provides $550 billion in new federal funding without raising taxes—including for roads, bridges, rail, transit, ports, airports, energy, water systems, and broadband. Due to Senator Murkowski’s dedicated work over the last few months, Alaska has an opportunity to benefit from these substantial and generational investments.
“I’m proud of this historic funding and the significant impact it will have in Alaska. Whether it’s rebuilding existing infrastructure, driving innovative technology, or addressing the lack of basic infrastructure in rural communities, this bill will create economic opportunities and improve the lives of Alaskans across the state. In drafting this legislation with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, I worked hard to stand up for Alaska’s unique infrastructure needs—taking into account that when we think of infrastructure, it’s not just roads and bridges. This bill prioritizes our marine highway system and ports that are so vital to connecting communities off the road system, invests in critical water infrastructure to bring clean water to families, supports an all-of-the above portfolio of energy projects to make energy cleaner, more reliable and affordable, and bolsters our nation’s mineral security. We also include provisions to strengthen broadband, which is so important for a rural state like Alaska. Funding to improve access to high-speed internet will translate to improved telehealth, commerce, and tele-education. This legislation is the result of compromise and good-faith efforts from across the aisle, and will create a stronger, brighter future for our state.”
Alaska Highlights in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act
*Note: numbers are nationwide program funding.
- Authorizes $273 billion in Federal-aid highway formula funding that will provide roughly $3.5 billion in highway funding for Alaska over five years to construct, rebuild, and maintain its roads and highways.
- Provides $40 billion in funding for bridge construction, maintenance and repair. Of that, $27.5 billion will be apportioned by formula to ensure every state’s bridges are provided with needed resources, and Alaska should get $225 million to address more than 140 bridges considered to be “structurally deficient”.
- This includes $1 billion for the replacement of culverts, like the Schoenbar Creek culvert in Ketchikan.
- There is an additional $11 billion for highway and pedestrian safety programs, including significant investment in the Safe Streets program, which aims to prevent death and serious injury to cyclists on roads and streets.
- Authorizes funding for reconstruction of the Shakwak Highway, the Alaska Highway from the Alaska border at Beaver Creek, Yukon Territory, to Haines Junction in Canada and the Haines Cutoff Highway from Haines Junction in Canada to Haines, Alaska, in support of the U.S.’s agreement with Canada.
- $15 billion in formula funding for the FAA Airport Improvement Program which supports projects such as planning, installing and expanding runways, gates, and taxiways and improving runway lighting and navigation.
- $5 billion for FAA’s Facilities and Equipment Program, which includes funding for FAA-owned Air Traffic Control facilities and contract towers. Alaska, with so many of its communities accessible only by air, depends on safety in the skies.
- $5 billion in grants for a new Airport Terminal Improvement Program, which includes set asides for small hub airports, nonhub, and nonprimary airports, ensuring airports in communities of all sizes, whether it be in Bethel or Utqiagvik, benefit.
- $1 billion for a new program that establishes an essential ferry service to support rural communities. This program, which was proposed by Senator Murkowski, will provide funding to the Alaska Marine Highway System.
- $250 million for an electric or low-emitting ferry pilot program, with at least one pilot to be conducted in the state with the most Marine Highway System miles—Alaska, which has 3,100 miles of Marine Highway, much of which is in Southeast Alaska.
- $337 million for the Construction of Ferry Boats and Ferry Terminal Facilities program, of which Alaska should receive $73 million. Provides an authorization for recipients of funding under the program to spend on ferry “operating costs”. Alaska operators who previously received formula funds under this program in FY20 were the Alaska Marine Highway System, Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Inter-Island Ferry Authority, and Seldovia Village Tribe.
- Authorizes Federal-aid highway funds to the Alaska Marine Highway System to be spent on operation and repair.
- $5 billion to change out diesel school buses for electric or low-emitting buses across the nation. Communities, including Juneau, are beginning to adopt lower-emitting and electric buses.
- $5.25 billion for the Low or No Emission Vehicle Program that supports the purchase of zero-emission and low-emission transit buses and construction of supporting facilities –important to communities such as Juneau.
- $5 billion for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement (CRISI) program to assist the Alaska Railroad with critical capital projects and rail safety technologies.
- Provides more than $180 million over five years for water and wastewater projects in Alaska through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) programs.
- $3.5 billion for Indian Health Services sanitation facilities. This will provide significant resources for rural Alaska villages in need of water and sanitation. Thirty-two of the 190 rural Alaska Native communities are still unserved and lack access to in-home water and sewer. This unprecedented investment in sanitation infrastructure will clear all known project needs.
- $10 billion for states to address PFAS contamination through Clean Water and Drinking Water programs, with a focus on small and disadvantaged communities.
- Modifies the tax treatment of financial contributions in aid of construction for water and sewerage providers, to assist water and sewerage utilities in Alaska, so the costs aren’t passed on to consumers.
- Provides $42 billion in grants to states for the deployment of broadband, with a minimum allocation of $100 million for each state.
- There is a dedicated carve out for high-cost areas for broadband deployment and $600 million for states to issue private activity bonds for deployment in rural areas.
- Additional $2 billion for tribes through the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Grant program and $1 billion for Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure grants.
- Allows the Denali Commission to provide the required matching funds for grant recipients.
- Provides $75 million for the Denali Commission.
- Permanently authorizes the FAST-41 permitting dashboard, which has saved infrastructure projects more than a billion dollars by substantially reduced permitting timelines for covered projects. This includes projects like the Alaska Gasline, the Liberty Project, and the Kake to Petersburg transmission line.
- Expands the eligibility of FAST-41 projects for infrastructure projects sponsored by Alaska Native Corporations regardless of size.
- FAST-41 has already reduced the environmental impact statement process for covered projects from 4.5 years to 2.5 years and this new reauthorization will require the permitting council to create the goal of further reducing these timetables to two years or less.
- Includes legislation authored by Senator Murkowski to improve the timeliness and efficiency for the permitting of critical mineral projects, like the proposed development of graphite near Nome, cobalt in the Ambler region, or rare earths in Southeast.
- $2.25 billion for the Port Infrastructure Development Program which provides critical support to ports big and small throughout Alaska.
- Provides $250 million for remote and subsistence harbor construction. This will go toward building ports in rural areas, many of which are not connected to a road system and in need of a port—a lifeblood to rural communities in Alaska.
- Includes $465 million for U.S. Army of Corps of Engineers Continuing Authorities Program authorities, which will help smaller communities across the country.
- Funds $429 million on the Coast Guard’s unfunded priority list and for childcare development centers. This funding will support our Coast Guard personnel in Kodiak, Sitka, and Ketchikan.
- Tribal Climate Resilience: $216 million is included over five years for tribal climate resilience, adaptation, and community relocation planning, design, and implementation of projects which address the varying climate challenges facing tribal communities across the country. Of that, $130 million is for community relocation and $86 million is for climate resilience and adaptation projects.
Energy and Natural Resources:
- Includes $355 million for the Energy Storage Demonstration Projects and Pilot Grants Program which ensure more efficient energy storage infrastructure.
- $3.21 billion for Advanced Reactor Demonstration Project, which will allow more headroom for micro reactors, an extremely promising technology for deployment in Alaska.
- Provides $146.4 million to carry out hydropower and marine energy research. Funding from this program is used by the Alaska Hydrokinetic Energy Research Center (AHERC) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and works to assess the feasibility and deployment of hydrokinetic resources in Alaska.
- Includes $264 million in funding for geothermal, wind, and solar energy projects. This will help the deployment and expansion of renewable energy resources in Alaska.
- Removes barriers for participation by Indian Tribes and Alaska Natives in programs that are part of the bill’s Energy Infrastructure Act.
- Includes more than $4.7 billion for orphaned well cleanup, including Alaska’s legacy wells in the NPR-A.
Grid Infrastructure and Resiliency
- Includes a set-aside for Small Utilities of 30 percent of program funds aimed toward preventing outages and enhancing resilience of the electric grid. Most Alaska utilities would qualify for this set-aside. Fifty percent of program funds will go to States or Indian Tribes.
- Provides $1 billion specifically for rural or remote areas (populations not more than 10,000 inhabitants) to improve the resiliency, safety, reliability, and the availability of energy. This funding will help Alaskan communities and Native villages to improve overall cost-effectiveness of energy generation, transmission or distribution systems, providing or modernizing electric generating facilities and developing microgrids.
- Directs $250 million in grants for the Rural and Municipal Utility Advanced Cybersecurity Grant and Technological Assistance Program in competitive grants for small and rural utilities to upgrade cybersecurity capabilities.
- Includes Senator Murkowski’s bill, S. 1400, the PROTECT Act, which enhances the electric grid by incentivizing electric utilities to make cybersecurity investments and makes available $250 million in grants and technical assistance for small utility providers that are not regulated by FERC, which includes many of the cooperatives and municipal utilities across Alaska.
Supply Chains for Clean Energy Technologies
- Includes over $825 million to strengthen our nation’s mineral security.
- $23 million is provided for the National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program, which sustains Geologic Materials Center in Anchorage.
- Includes $320 million for the Earth Mapping Resources Initiative that will help us better understand the quantity, type, and location of mineral resources in Alaska, like the Yukon-Tanana uplands.
- Reauthorizes the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program through 2031, which identifies mineral deposits and helps Alaskans map geologic hazards such as landslides, volcanoes, and earthquakes.
- Provides over $6 billion for battery processing and manufacturing, including grants for commercial-scale battery materials processing facilities. This could benefit firms who are looking to produce and refine battery materials such as graphite and rare earth elements in Alaska.
- Makes critical mineral development projects eligible for DOE’s Title 17 Loan Guarantee to receive financing. To date, over $25 billion has been distributed through the Title 17 program.
Fuels and Technology Infrastructure Investments
- Provides over $34 billion for carbon capture and storage and related programs, hydropower funding, clean hydrogen, and civil nuclear credits. All of these technologies have enormous consequence for Alaska.
- Supports Alaska’s enormous potential for hydropower— which could provide communities with renewable, affordable, and clean energy—by including incentive payments to upgrade hydropower facilities.
- Secures $100 million for the Bureau of Reclamation to establish a program for small water storage projects, including in Alaska and Hawaii.
- Repeals an outdated limitation on $18 billion in loan guarantees that has been set aside for an Alaska gasline, thus ensuring the gasline can access the funds.
Energy Efficiency and Building Infrastructure
- Over $6 billion included for energy efficiency measures across the whole bill, including $250 million for loan fund capitalization grants, $3.5 billion for Weatherization Assistance Program, $550 million for energy efficiency and Conservation Block Grants, and $225 million for efficiency and resiliency code implementation. These programs will help Alaskans reduce their energy costs, put money back into their pockets, and help mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Natural Resources-Related Infrastructure, Wildfire Management, an Ecosystem Restoration
- Provides $250 million for decommissioning, road and trail repair and maintenance and removal of fish passage barriers, which is significant for restoring salmon and other fish habitat in Alaska’s national forests.
- Includes more than $3.3 billion to conduct mechanical thinning, controlled burns, fuel breaks and other activities to reduce wildfire risk on Interior and Forest Service lands, including in Alaska. The fuel breaks implemented on the Kenai, in particular, are credited with saving communities during the Funny River Fire. The bill also includes pre-commercial thinning important for subsistence resources and improving growth of young growth stands in Alaska on the Tongass.
- Provides over $2.1 billion for the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service to restore the ecological health of Federal lands and waters and of private lands, through voluntary efforts, via a variety of programs, including through partnering with States. Alaska will qualify for all of these restoration programs and projects.
- Includes specific carve out of $20 million for construction, reconstruction, operation and maintenance of recreation public use cabins. There are more than 155 of these cabins in the Tongass and another 50 in the Chugach in Alaska.
- Includes $100 million for workforce training for firefighting and vegetation management that specifically includes Native village fire crews.