Murkowski Supports a Safer and More Prosperous Alaska

Senate Appropriations Approves Commerce, Justice, Science Funding Bill

The Senate Appropriations Committee recently approved the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) Fiscal Year 2019 Appropriations bill, which contains several priorities U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski secured for Alaska. As a member of this subcommittee, Murkowski included provisions to strengthen Alaska’s world-class fisheries, protect Alaskan ocean wildlife, improve Arctic infrastructure and research, and support other significant programs such as the National Sea Grant Program. In addition, the CJS bill provides resources to combat emerging threats, preserve public safety, and support members of Alaska’s tribal communities.

“From protecting our world-class fisheries and keeping our waters safe for Alaskans, to maintaining research facilities and the quality of life in our remote communities, the funds contained in this bill support a wide array of key initiatives in Alaska. In a state where our oceans and fisheries are so closely tied to the livelihoods of so many, I am encouraged by the work done in this bill to support such a vital resources,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski. “This bill also prioritizes safety and justice by providing funding to prevent school violence and to support victims of violent crimes in Alaska. Creating safer, more secure environments for our state is paramount. This legislation directs the right funding in the right places to ensure just that.”

(Note: Numbers are nationwide program funding levels.) 

Healthy Oceans and Coastlines

  • National Sea Grant Program: Provides increased funding of $71 million for the extension, outreach activities, education, and research that will support the growing coastal community utilization of key Sea Grant services within their numerous focus areas. This includes pioneering health research through a study documenting fisherman health habits and chronic health challenges in the industry. Senator Murkowski’s language directing the Commerce Secretary, in coordination with Sea Grant, to lay the groundwork for the young fishermen’s development program was also included.
  • Salmon Management: Includes the first increase in funding for the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund since 2013, as well as $2 million in additional funding for implementation of the Pacific Salmon Treaty.
  • Other Ecosystem Programs – Integrated Ocean Acidification: Maintains $11 million for addressing the impacts of ocean acidification.
  • Marine Debris: Includes language secured by Senator Murkowski to give increased consideration to remote and rural communities with great difficulty undertaking cleanups and with little infrastructure.
  • OAR Climate Research: Includes funding of $160 million, which includes $6 million for Arctic research.

Safer Alaska

  • National Weather Service (NWS): Provides $1.019 billion for the National Weather Service, including Senator Murkowski’s language directing the NWS to continue to report on staffing concerns in Alaska and calls on the Service to share their plans to maintain and improve forecasting capabilities in Alaska, specifically in remote and rural areas.
  • Navigation, Observations and Positioning– Hydrographic Surveys Priorities/Contracts: Includes language secured by Senator Murkowski directing NOAA to accelerate acquisition of survey data to complement its own internal data and expedite comprehensive charting, especially in backlogged regions like the Arctic. Also includes language directing NOAA to efficiently conduct hydrographic surveys while taking into account the short seasons in the Arctic region.
  • Navigation, Observations, and Positioning– IOOS Regional Observations: Includes increased funding at $37 million, a $2 million increase, for the Integrated Ocean Observing System to prioritize High Frequency radars to acquire the speed and direction of ocean surface currents in near real time.
  • Operations, Research, and Facilities—National Data Buoy Center: Includes report language that provides sufficient Data Universal Numbering Systems for 80 percent data availability. This funding supports NOAA’s national buoy network, which helps keep mariners traveling through Alaska and the Arctic safe amidst varying weather conditions.
  • US Array: Includes language secured by Senator Murkowski facilitating the transfer of assets between the United States Coast Guard and the National Science Foundation.

Sustainable Management of Alaska’s Fisheries

  • Regional Councils and Fisheries Commissions: Includes a robust $40.175 million, a 12 percent increase, which will apply equally across all Commissions and Councils.
  • Electronic Monitoring (EM) and Electronic Reporting (ER): Directs NMFS to prioritize EM/ER implementations and to expedite to the fullest extent practicable the transition to full EM/ER. In addition, the $3.5 million is provided for collaborative partnerships to implement EM/ER programs in consultation with industry, as well as language that directs the NMFS to report on how it plans to store data. 
  • Expanding Annual Stock Assessment: Significantly increases funding to $170.9 million to improve the data collection operations that establish annual catch levels.
  • Marine Mammal Commission: Increases funding to $4.19 million to maintain and restore the ocean’s mammal populations.
  • Aleutian Island Pollock Allocation: Directs the Agency to move forward with the Exempted Fishing Permit for the Aleutian Island Pollock.
  • Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund (PCSRF): Provides a historical level of funding at $70 million, which includes a minimum of $5 million annually for coastal states at the urging of Senator Murkowski. Directs NOAA to provide a report within 90 days that details the process of PCSRF funding and how that money maintains Pacific Salmon populations and supports both the recovery and protection of all declining stocks.    
  • Salmon Management Activities – Pacific Salmon Treaty: Includes increased funding of $16 million to implement treaty terms across the Northwest states and finalize negotiations with Canada. 
  • Saltonstall-Kennedy Funds (SK): Creates more opportunities for Alaskans to be beneficiaries of SK grants by requiring at least 15 percent of all grant funds to be spent on the competitive grant program, and of those funds, at least 80 percent must be awarded externally and not within NOAA as is often the case.
  • Fisheries Finance Program: Improves opportunities for the construction of fishing vessels and for vessel owners to work on existing vessels to improve fishing vessel safety by offering loans to help the fleet modernize and provide significant economic benefits to shipyards and support industries. Also allows for easier reorganization involving substantial changes in a vessel owners capital structure so that they can make the modifications on their vessels.
  • National Marine Fisheries Service – Alaska Region: Includes language encouraging region offices to locate research staff within their respective research regions to the greatest extent practicable.
  • NOAA Office of Aquaculture: Provides $12 million and ensures that the Alaska Region has a regional aquaculture coordinator.

Safety, Justice, and Legal Services

  • STOP School Violence Act: Includes $100 million to support the STOP School Violence Act, which Senator Murkowski cosponsored, to keep our students safer and our schools more secure through school security improvements and early intervention and prevention programs.
  • Drug Prevention Programs: Provides $360 million for Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) programs, including $102.5 million in support for Drug Courts and Veterans Treatment Courts to further combat the opioid and heroin epidemic.
  • Youth Mentoring Programs: Provides $94 million for Youth Mentoring Programs.
  • Regional Information Sharing System (RISS): Increases funding to $37 million to support the Regional Information Sharing System (RISS), to help law enforcement officers solve cases and stay safe. 
  • Victims of Crime Act Fund Tribal Set-aside: Includes $141 million, a portion of the Victims of Crime Act Fund (VOCA), specifically for tribal use. Senator Murkowski advocated for the strongest possible VOCA set-aside for Native Communities who disproportionately face violence and often have extremely limited access to services.
  • Legal Services Corporation: Includes $410 million for Legal Services Corporation. Last year in Alaska this organization helped more than 4,500 people, including 560 seniors and 160 veterans.

Related Issues: Alaska's Fisheries, Budget, Spending, and the National Debt, Arctic