Water Infrastructure Development Bill to Become Law

Legislation Will Support Projects Throughout Alaska

Early this morning, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voted in favor of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, legislation that addresses infrastructure priorities on America’s coasts and rivers. This is an updated version of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which passed the Senate in September. WIIN authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers to improve navigation and flood management, construct projects to mitigate storm damage, and to assist state and local governments with safety programs. The bill also supports a wide range of water quality projects and programs by providing grants and loans to state and local governments, public water systems, and nonprofit organizations.

The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 78-21 and now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law. 

“This bill has major impacts on many communities throughout Alaska, and I applaud Senator Dan Sullivan for his work on the Environment and Public Works Committee to secure those provisions,” said Senator Murkowski. “Alaska faces unique challenges – due to factors such as our state’s vast size and remoteness – and I’m pleased this bill helps us address those challenges by allowing much-needed infrastructure projects to advance.” 

Arctic Deep-Draft Port: Makes progress to build much-needed infrastructure in the region by instructing the Assistant Secretary of the Army in carrying out a feasibility study of an Arctic deep-draft port. This is an important step towards strengthening America’s Arctic presence, national security, and economic viability. In addition, the bill directs the Secretary of the Army to consult with the Secretaries of Homeland Security and Defense in order to identify national security benefits associated with an Arctic deep-draft port as a basis for determining feasibility. 

Small, Remote, Subsistence Harbors: Included in the bill is a provision pulled from Senator Murkowski’s amendment in the Energy & Water Appropriations bill, which expands the language of the Remote and Subsistence Harbors provision to take into account not only local needs, but also regional impacts and effects. When it comes to conducting a study of harbor and navigation improvements, this provision allows for the potential for more harbors in rural Alaska, by directing the Secretary to take into account the long-term viability, social and cultural value, and welfare of not only the community in which the project is located but communities located in the region that would be served by the project.

Denali Commission:  Senator Murkowski secured an amendment that will reauthorize the Denali Commission, enabling the Commission to continue doing work to build infrastructure in rural Alaska, and to carry out the new mission assigned by the President of being the lead agency in assisting environmentally threatened communities with issues such as coastal erosion. 

Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs): Includes a provision that allows Alaska Native villages and regional and village corporations to be non-Federal sponsors of Corps projects and expands the existing authority of the Corps to accept funds from states and local governments to carry out water resources projects to apply to all projects, not just flood control, and expands the definition of state to include territories and Indian Tribes, including ANCs. 

Additional Bill Highlights:

  • St. George Harbor: The bill expedites the process for construction of the harbor, and if deemed that a project is justified, allows for the project to proceed directly to project preconstruction, engineering, and design.
  • Craig Harbor: Authorizes $32,755,000 in both federal and non-federal funds for the construction of the Craig Harbor Project.
  • Little Diomede: Authorizes $29,327,000 in both federal and non-federal funds for the construction of the Little Diomede Harbor Project.
  • Elfin Cove: Authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers to maintain the harbor, including addressing the threat of shoaling. 
  • Valdez Harbor: Allows development of a new small boat harbor to continue. 

As a member of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Murkowski has worked to fund critical water infrastructure projects administered by the Army Corps of Engineers and authorized by the WIIN Act, including securing a number of provisions to address Alaska’s unique infrastructure needs.