Murkowski Invests in Alaska’s Future

Interior Bill Provides for Infrastructure Development

As Chairman of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) unveiled legislation that makes important investments for new infrastructure in Alaska, while improving the state’s existing infrastructure. The Interior Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2019 was approved by the full Appropriations Committee today through a historic, unanimous vote. It will now head to the Senate floor for final consideration. 

“These investments today will make a lasting impact on Alaska,” Senator Murkowski said. “I believe it is our responsibility to lay the foundations now to ensure future generations of Alaskans will have the stability and tools needed to succeed. In addition to funding that will help local government construct roads and public schools, we provide significant resources toward the development of key infrastructure for Alaskans. From improving and creating new wastewaster and drinking water systems, to protecting the tourism industry that has fueled Alaska’s economy, to placing the highest priority on the health and basic necessities of our Alaskan communities --- we are working to ensure the best future for Alaskans.”

Water and Wastewater

The bill provides $30 million for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new grant program to help bring basic water and sewer to communities in need. Funding is also increased for the construction of new drinking water and wastewater systems, and includes $25 million for the improvement of existing systems in rural Alaskan communities. Through the Indian Health Service’s (IHS) Sanitation Facilities Construction program, $192 million is funded for infrastructure upgrades for tribal communities, providing American Indian and Alaska Native homes and communities with essential water supply, sewage disposal, and solid waste disposal facilities.

Healthcare Facilities

Alaskans have some of the highest healthcare costs in the country and the most limited access to care. This bill addresses those challenges by funding Village Built Clinics at $15 million, a program unique to Alaska that supports 150 healthcare clinics in rural areas, which often serve as the only health facility in the respective region. Through the Small Ambulatory Clinics program, the bill also provides additional resources, $15 million, to make infrastructure improvements across the nation for providing healthcare delivery to American Indians and Alaska Natives. To address the need for expansion or replacement of health care facilities, $10 million is provided to the Health Care Facilities Construction program. Specific language is included to facilitate a portion of those funds for the Behavioral Health facility currently underway by Norton Sound Health Corporation.

Land and Transportation Construction

The bill directs the Department of the Interior to continue making progress to complete long awaited work at Cooper Landing, by directing the Department to provide a plan on the next steps in the process. The bill also directs the Interior Department to adhere to the timelines for completing and finalizing environmental reviews for Ambler Road from Dalton Highway to the Ambler Mining District, including construction of broadband infrastructure.

The bill prioritizes infrastructure improvements on our nation’s public lands. Both the construction and deferred maintenance budgets continue to receive increases, building upon their historic increases from the year prior. These are priorities for National Parks in Alaska, as maintaining park infrastructure is key to both local visitors and the tourism sector. As Denali tops the list in Alaska affected by the deferred maintenance backlog, the bill calls for long-term plan to fix Polychrome Pass, the most dangerous part of Denali Park Road.

The Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee controls funding levels for federal agencies and departments such as the Department of the Interior (DOI), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Forest Service (FS), National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and Indian Health Service (IHS). Murkowski, as Chairman, is able to write the Senate’s annual appropriations bill for the Subcommittee.