Obama Administration to Work with Murkowski on Denali Commission and Fisheries Science Funding

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today got a commitment from Secretary of Commerce Gary F. Locke that the Obama administration would work with her on Fiscal Year 2010 funding for the Denali Commission and fisheries science and research in Alaska.
The commitment came during Locke’s testimony at a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee, of which Murkowski is a member.
The Obama administration released a partial Fiscal Year 2010 budget earlier this year that included few specific federal spending requests. There were no details on funding levels for fisheries research or the Denali Commission in that document. More budget details will be released later this year, and Murkowski used her questioning of Locke to remind him of how important these programs are to Alaska.
“The Denali Commission is very, very important to Alaska in terms of how we address some of our most critical needs whether we’re talking about water and sewer, education or healthcare,” she said. “As a partnership between the federal government, the State of Alaska and Alaska Native organizations, it has become the prime example of how government should operate.”
Congress has traditionally increased funding for the Denali Commission through the annual appropriations process, and Murkowski said she hoped it would be included in the President’s upcoming proposed FY 2010 budget. Locke said he would be “delighted to work with you and explore funding issues on that.”
Murkowski added that she will also be working with U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, to get the Denali Commission reauthorized this year.
Murkowski said that fisheries were “truly the lifeblood of coastal Alaska” and that Alaskans have a keen interest in making sure they have the best scientific information available “so we can continue the management of our fisheries in a sustainable way.”  She also told Locke that federal funding for fisheries science and management in Alaska has been inadequate for a number of years.
Locke said he would have to get back with Murkowski on fisheries science funding but acknowledged that sustainable fisheries and harvests are dependent on the scientific data that drive policy decisions.
“Science is the key, it has to be a priority and without the science everything else is for naught,” he said.