Murkowski’s Appropriations Work Makes Alaska Waters Safer, Fisheries More Sustainable

Senator’s Nautical Priorities Addressed in Commerce/Justice/Science Funding Bill

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) finalized its 2016 funding bill today, incorporating several policies and provisions at the urging of Senator Lisa Murkowski.  The CJS bill successfully passed out of the subcommittee earlier today and will head to the full Senate Appropriations Committee for more consideration tomorrow.

“Alaska’s waters are our farms, and we’ve got to keep them safe for mariners and fishermen, but also prioritize funding the research decisions of our fisheries to make sure they remain the gold standard worldwide,” said Murkowski.  “The increase in Arctic activity is mostly a nautical endeavor for the international community, so I thank my colleagues for putting our money where our mouth is when it comes to investing in Arctic navigation and awareness.”

The funding in this bill supports the North Pacific Council, the Pacific Salmon Commission and the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission – all key components in the management of Alaska’s fisheries.  Murkowski made sure the funding bill addressed several Alaska concerns.

Fisheries Science and Management:  Senator Murkowski supported robust funding levels for:

  • Data collection, surveys and assessments: $163 million
  • Regional councils and fisheries commissions: $35.9 million
  • Salmon management activities: $30.2 million, far more than the $27.5 million the President allocated.
  • Electronic monitoring and reporting: $5.6 million

Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund (PCSRF):   The PCSRF was funded at Senator Murkowski’s request of $65 million -- $7 million above the President’s request.

Boosting Arctic Navigation:  Murkowski supported a funding allocation of $25 million for hydrographic surveys – or sonar mapping – of the nation’s coastline.  Attached to that funding amount is a provision from Senator Murkowski emphasizing the need for Arctic mapping, and setting hard deadlines with the federal agencies responsible in the region:

“Not later than 270 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, NOAA shall provide a report to the committee containing the full cost estimate for accomplishing the hydrographic shoreline, geodetic, and tidal surveys in the territories of the United States that are located in the Arctic Ocean, as described in the February 15, 2013 edition of NOAA’s Arctic Nautical Charting Plan. Such a report shall include corresponding timelines for completing all initial surveys and a recommended long-term schedule for conducting survey updates. NOAA is further directed to report within 45 days of enactment of this act on hydrographic activities planned for FY16, including: vessels to be utilized, areas to be surveyed, and remaining gaps in the Arctic Region.”

Making Alaska’s Coasts Safe and Navigable: Senator Murkowski has made a point of noting the thousands of miles of Alaskan coastline managed by the federal government – arguing that the federal government should adequately fund clean-up efforts for federal lands. She also has made the issue of abandoned and derelict vessels a federal priority for safety concerns. Today’s bill includes Murkowski’s provision:

“The Committee supports the requested level for NOAA’s marine debris program. In addition to the ongoing efforts to fully address marine debris created by the 2011 Japanese tsunami in the Pacific, consideration should be given to the marine debris projects in urban communities that include removal of abandoned vessels and piling that harm the ecosystem and hinder recreational fishing.”

Informing Mariners of Sea, Weather Conditions: As Arctic activity increases, Senator Murkowski has advocated for more weather buoys in Alaska’s waters, to make sure that commercial, personal and military vessels have the best data available about the seas ahead.  To deal with the problem of some devices failing to communicate information, Senator Murkowski added a provision calling for a:

Report no later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, NOAA shall submit a report detailing the resources necessary to properly maintain and operate the Coastal Buoy System in areas off Alaska and in the Arctic Ocean.  Include the identification of gaps in Arctic weather and sea ice observing networks in U.S. Territories to include a schedule to restore existing data buoy operability and its strategy to minimize outages in the future as part of the agency’s spending plan.”