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May 4, 2017
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Murkowski: Omnibus Bill Will Bring Vast Benefits to Southeast Alaska

Bill Revitalizes Timber Industry and Strengthens Fisheries

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the Senate passed the omnibus appropriations bill to fund the federal government through the remainder of Fiscal Year 2017, after it passed the House of Representatives last night. As a member of the Appropriations Committee and Chairman of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was able to include provisions to address a wide range of challenges, needs, and opportunities for Southeast Alaska.

“My AMHT land exchange bill, which is included in the omnibus, is a major victory for Southeast Alaska. It addresses environmental concerns by protecting community viewsheds, trails, recreational lands, and tourism; provides critical timber to keep our local sawmills running; and raises funds for mental health programs. This is a widely supported, common sense solution. It comes with not a moment to spare, as it will deliver real benefits for Southeast communities,” said Senator Murkowski. “This bill also provides tools to protect the pristine waters of Southeast Alaska – promoting safe mining practices near transboundary rivers to ensure the full protection of our world-class fisheries. It also contains components to help sustainably maintain our world-class fisheries, and keep our waters safe for mariners and fisherman.”

Click here for a comprehensive list and details of Alaska-specific provisions in the omnibus.

Highlights of the Fiscal Year 2017 Omnibus Appropriations Bill include:

Alaska Mental Health Trust: The omnibus approves the time-sensitive Alaska Mental Health Trust (AMHT) land exchange to conserve the scenic backgrounds of communities such as Ketchikan, Petersburg, Sitka, Wrangell, and Juneau; provide much-needed timber supply to Southeast timber mills; and provide benefits to vulnerable populations in Alaska. The exchanged AMHT lands will be added to the Tongass National Forest, and the lands AMHT receives may be used to generate funds for the mental health system in the midst of our state’s fiscal crisis.

Transboundary Water Quality: Provides funding for transboundary river streamgages and directs the BIA and USGS to enter into a formal partnership with local tribes to develop a water quality strategy for transboundary rivers.

Forest Products: Funds the Forest Service’s timber program for the nation, which includes the timber industry that provides jobs and opportunities for residents of Southeast Alaska.

Alaska Red Cedar and Economic Timber Sales: Continues current law that requires that timber sales in Alaska be economic, and requires that Alaska and West Coast sawmills be given the first right to process the timber, in order to keep these jobs in the U.S.

Forest Inventory Analysis: Partners with the state to inventory forests across the nation and builds efforts to include Interior Alaska in these inventories.

Biomass: The bill includes language that requires the Secretary of Energy, the Secretary of Agriculture, and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to jointly establish a policy for treating biomass as a carbon neutral energy source.  The language encourages the use of biomass as a renewable energy source.  By treating biomass as a carbon neutral, the federal government is clarifying that biomass is a “green” fuel.  This should increase demand for biomass, which could help create new markets for Alaska’s timber industry.

Forest Service Recreation: Provides funding for the Forest Service’s recreation programs to issue additional special use permits, helping to expand recreation-based businesses in the Chugach and Tongass National Forests in Alaska. Also funds Forest Service recreation assets like cabins and campgrounds.

Gustavus Intertie: Includes funding for the National Park Service Construction, for renewable energy projects like the Gustavus Intertie project. This would allow for National Park Service facilities to connect to the local electric utility, which runs on hydropower.

Bokan Mountain: Ensures sufficient funds are available for the Forest Service to clean up contamination in areas like Bokan Mountain. Activity in that area cannot move forward until clean-up is complete.

Sealaska Cultural Sites: Provides funding for Alaska Native programs to certify claims for historical places and cultural sites.

Army Corps of Engineers Operations and Maintenance Funding:

  • $3.1 million for Ketchikan, Thomas Basin
  • National Security Cutters (NSC): Allocates $95 million for long lead time materials for a 10th NSC. Language is included directing the U.S. Coast Guard to strongly consider homeporting an NSC in close proximity to the Arctic, given the NSC’s ability to operate in the harshest and most challenging environments.
  • Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC): Funded at $75 million, and includes language directing the Coast Guard to station at least two OPCs in Kodiak, Alaska to address the aging of USCG assets in the Arctic and Bering Sea.
  • Fast Response Cutter (FRC): Funded at $325 million. Two FRCs are scheduled to be stationed in Ketchikan in 2017.

The Fiscal Year 2017 Omnibus Appropriation Bill also includes funding for additional programs supporting health, education and essential services for Alaskans including:

Payment in Lieu of Taxes: Fully funds the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program at $465 million, well above last year’s funding levels. The PILT program provides monetary compensation to local governments throughout Alaska that contain federal lands that are not subject to state or local taxation. The revenue helps local governments provide vital services, such as firefighting and police protection, construction of public schools and roads, and search-and-rescue operations.

Tribal Court Funding (PL280): Provides Tribal Court funding to Public Law 280 states, such as Alaska, in order to help develop tribal court systems for communities.

Small and Needy Tribes: Provides direct support to ensure all tribes have a base level of support to run tribal governments.

Alaska Subsistence (FS and FWS): Provides funds for the Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct activities relating to the Federal Subsistence Board, and works with Alaska Natives to gather information, expand employment and capacity building, and assist subsistence users with law enforcement compliance activities, such as obtaining essential permits and meeting harvest reporting requirements.

Tribal Management: Provides additional funding for Alaska subsistence programs, extending critical pilot projects and ensuring additional opportunities for Alaska Native involvement in federal subsistence processes.

State Water Revolving Funds: Provides funding to help local communities improve water infrastructure in both the wastewater and drinking water areas. Funding from this program can be used to address problems like lead content in water.

Alaska Native Villages Water Program (EPA): Provides funds for the construction of new drinking water and wastewater systems, or the improvement of existing systems in rural Alaskan communities. Last year, funds awarded through this program went to ten different projects that will improve water and sanitation services for over 1,000 Alaskan homes.

3D Alaska Mapping: Includes additional funding for the Alaska mapping initiative that will help gather data to improve maps, enhancing safety for activities such as aviation. Just last August, Alaska surpassed the halfway mark in updating the state’s digital mapping and data collection. Currently much of the terrain data in Alaska is more than 50 years old and hand-sketched from photos shot from World War II reconnaissance craft.

Mineral Resources Program and Geophysical Studies: Funding is restored for Alaska geological mapping. Also, directs USGS to conduct studies that would significantly expand the public’s knowledge of the minerals resource potential in Alaska, and to begin studies on oil and gas resources in low permeability reservoirs.

Lead Bullets and Fishing Tackle: Ensures the EPA is prohibited from regulating lead content of ammunition and fishing tackle.

GE Salmon: After the FDA’s decision in 2015 to approve genetically engineered (GE) salmon for human consumption, Senator Murkowski promised to fight back for the health of both consumers and Alaska’s fisheries. Murkowski successfully included a provision in the omnibus that bans that blocks the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from introducing GE salmon into the market until it publishes labeling guidelines so consumers are aware of what is contained in the product they are purchasing.

Golden King Crab Nomenclature: Senator Murkowski secured language to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to update the FDA’s seafood list to change the acceptable market name of Brown King Crab to “Golden King Crab.”

Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions: Funded at $3.2 million to help these institutions improve and expand their ability to prepare graduates for the food and agricultural sciences and to research effects of climate change invasive species and pests in agricultural settings.

Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (1994 Institutions): Funded at $4.4 million to help institutions prepare students to contribute to and strengthen their communities

Food and Nutritional Services:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): $78.5 billion
  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations: $151 million
  • Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infant, and Children (WIC): $6.35 billion
  • The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) Storage and Distribution: $59.4 million
  • Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP): $236.1 million to help low income elderly individuals by supplementing their diets with nutritious USDA foods.
  • Section 32 Funds: A transfer of $20.7 million to purchase commodities from producers affected by adverse market conditions and donate them to schools, food banks, and food pantries.
  • Child Nutrition Programs:
  • National School Lunch Program: $12.4 billion
  • School Breakfast Program: $4.5 billion
  • Child and Adult Care Food Program: $3.5 billion
  • Summer Food Service Program: $627 million
  • Farm to School Program: $4.2 million
  • School Nutrition Equipment Grant: $25 million

Fisheries Science, Research, and Management:

  • Fisheries data collection, surveys and assessments: $164 million.
  • Regional councils and fisheries commissions: $34.3 million.
  • Salmon management activities: $33.5 million.
  • Marine Mammals, Sea Turtles, and Other Species: $111.3 million.
  • Integrated Ocean Acidification: $10.5 million.
  • Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund: $65 million.
  • Saltonstall-Kennedy Funds: Secured $130 million to promote and develop fishery products and research pertaining to American fisheries.

Hydrographic Survey: Allocates $27 million for hydrographic surveys of the nation’s coastline.

National Weather Service (NWS): $979.8 million.

National Sea Grant College Program: $63 million.

Polar Icebreaker: Provides $150 million to the Navy procure materials needed for construction of a polar icebreaker. Directs $55 million to the Coast Guard for procurement of a heavy icebreaker. Also requires a report on polar icebreaker requirements, preferred design, overall acquisition strategy, and a breakout of funds necessary to support the acquisition within 90 days.

Denali Commission: Provides $15 million for the Commission tasked with coordination of construction and infrastructure efforts in rural Alaska.

Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): Allocates robust funds for the LIHEAP program – which acts as a crucial supplement for many Alaskans who face the highest energy prices in the nation. Over 11,000 Alaskan households received LIHEAP assistance in 2014.

Impact Aid: Increases funds for Impact Aid – which reimburses school districts for the cost of educating students who live on properties that are tax-exempt due to federal law. This includes students who live on, or parents who work on, military installations, federally-designated low-income housing, and Native lands.

Title VI Indian Education Formula Grants: Allocates funds to address the unique education and culturally related academic needs of American Indian and Alaska Native students.

21st Century Community Learning Centers: Directs resources to support afterschool programs to give working parents peace of mind and keep kids safe and engaged in learning after school.

Alaska Native Education Equity Program (ANEP): Supports ANEP, a program designed to meet the unique education needs of Alaska Native students.

Strengthening Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions: Promotes and strengthens the ability of Alaska Native-Serving Institutions and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions to carry out education, applied research, and related community development programs. This is an important program for several of Alaska’s rural UA campuses.

Strengthening Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities: Strengthens support for educational institutions operated by American Indian tribes – including Iḷisaġvik College in Barrow, Alaska.

Privacy of Student Data: Directs the Department of Education to adhere to the strictest and highest standards for protecting personally identifiable information (PII) and requires the Department to report to Congress on their actions taken to comply with this directive.

Indian Education National Activities: Ensures funds will be available to support Native American and Alaska Native Language Immersion Schools and Programs, a new program crafted by Senator Murkowski in the Every Student Succeeds Act. It has been determined that schools where indigenous language is the primary language of instruction have a strong, positive effect on Alaska Native students.

Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant: Increases funds for the Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant, to improve the health of mothers and children, including children and youth with special health care needs.

State Public Health Actions on Chronic Diseases: Directs resources to boost programs aimed at preventing chronic diseases – including obesity, diabetes, heart diseases, and strokes.

Preventative Health and Health Services Block Grant: Funds the Preventative Health and Health Services Block Grant, which is used in Alaska to address basic health concerns related to chronic disease, rape prevention, and unintentional injuries.

NIH: Provides robust funding for the National Institute of Health – which conducts state of the art biomedical research.

Suicide Prevention: Allocates resources for suicide prevention efforts including the Suicide Lifeline, Garrett Lee Smith Youth Suicide prevention funds, and the American Indian and Alaska Native Suicide Prevention Initiative.

Opioids and Substance Abuse Prevention: Provides robust funding to combat the opioid abuse epidemic in Alaska and throughout the nation.

Transportation Investment Generating Economic Development (TIGER) Grants: Provides $500 million for capital projects that generate economic development and improve access to reliable, safe, and affordable transportation for communities.

Murkowski is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Chairman of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee.