SENATORS MURKOWSKI AND STEVENS REINTRODUCE MEASURE TO PROTECT GROUNDWATER, AID FLOOD FORECASTS, AND PROVIDE ECONOMIC GROWTH
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators Lisa Murkowski and Ted Stevens recently reintroduced legislation requiring the federal government to fund a comprehensive study of water resources in Alaska, including an effort to map aquifers in populated Southcentral Alaska that increasingly supplies well water for tens of thousands of Alaskans.
Murkowski, in her past role as chairman of the Senate Water and Power Subcommittee of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, originally introduced the Alaska Water Resources Act of 2005 with her Alaska colleague Senator Ted Stevens. While the bill passed the Senate, time ran out in the 109th Congress before it was acted upon in the House.
Specifically, the legislation:
• Authorizes the U.S. Geological Survey to determine whether more stream gaging stations are necessary to aid in flood forecasting and to provide dependable water flows to help fight forest fires. The provision would focus on the threat of flooding to roads and infrastructure and also provide data to determine the availability of water to aid natural resource extraction.
• Requires the U.S. Commissioner of Reclamation to study and map aquifers in urbanizing areas that are dependent on groundwater: The City of Fairbanks, the Fairbanks Northstar Borough, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, the Municipality of Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula.
• Requires the Bureau of Reclamation to study whether any new technologies in water purification/delivery, including new desalination systems, might be useful to coastal and island communities to improve potable water supplies.
“The importance of water resource data collection to a State that has a resource-based economy cannot be overstated,” said Senator Murkowski. “Economic development is predicated on access to an adequate water supply, and in my State there is inadequate hydrologic data upon which to secure both economic development and the health and welfare of Alaskan citizens.”
"This bill will help communities plan for their future drinking water needs, which is a necessity as Alaska's population continues to grow," said Senator Stevens. "Provisions in the legislation also allow the State to better design water systems and transportation infrastructure, while addressing the shortcomings of rural Alaska's water-sanitation systems. These improvements are critical to the development of our State's economy and will help ensure the health and safety of all Alaskans."
Murkowski, who noted that Alaska is estimated to hold one-third of all the fresh water in the nation, said the federal water study, already conducted for most of the rest of the nation, should be especially helpful to natural resource industries in the state in planning for the future.
She noted that resource developers, from oil production on Alaska’s North Slope that needs water to build ice roads to potential mineral projects throughout the state, often have little baseline hydrology and water quality data available when they are required to meet environmental and regulatory permitting requirements. She said additional scientific information on water supplies will clearly benefit the state’s residents, the economy, and the environment.
Under the bill the agencies will have two years to complete the required studies.