U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski attends a joint Soldotna and Kenai Chamber of Commerce Luncheon on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski attends a joint Soldotna and Kenai Chamber of Commerce Luncheon on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Peninsula projects included in Murkowski appropriations requests

The funding requests run the gamut from funding for the Alaska SeaLife Center to expanding projects at the Central Peninsula Landfill.

Funding for a number of projects on the Kenai Peninsula are included in nine appropriations bills currently before the U.S. Senate.

The funding requests, provided in an itemized list from the office of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, run the gamut from funding for the Alaska SeaLife Center to expanding projects at the Central Peninsula Landfill.

“I am pleased that we were successful in including so many priorities from Alaskans for local projects that have the potential to make very significant impacts on entire communities,” Murkowski said in a press release from her office.

The energy and water development bill, for example, includes $3 million for the Lowell Creek Tunnel in Seward, which Murkowski’s office said is necessary to protect the town from “damaging” floodwaters. The tunnel was declared unsafe by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2011 and sustained additional structural damage in 2012.

Seward would also get about $1.1 million for the Alaska SeaLife Center to be put toward the study of marine animal health and “changing oceans.”

The interior, environment and related agencies appropriations bill includes $385,000 for the City of Kenai to implement its wildfire hazard mitigation plan, including spruce bark beetle infestation. About $5.77 million is included for the Chugach National Forest to use for maintenance, construction and restoration on parts of the Iditarod trail.

Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander said Wednesday that while the City of Kenai can definitely use the funds for the implementation of its wildfire mitigation program, including spruce bark beetle infestation, he hopes that a larger funding request for borough-wide mitigation efforts is also considered.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough submitted a request to Murkowski’s office earlier this year requesting $35 million to be used for spruce bark beetle mitigation in the borough with an emphasis on protecting public infrastructure. In a letter to Murkowski, Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce said that federal assistance for beetle mitigation is warranted by the “size and cost of this enormous project.”

The same bill also details $3.36 million for the expansion of the capacity of the leachate tank at the Central Peninsula Landfill. The same project has already received about $6 million from the Kenai Peninsula Borough via federal funds it received under the American Rescue Plan Act that President Joe Biden signed into law earlier this year.

Statewide, the bills include $5 million for the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault to fund programs that support victim service organizations, $1 million to fund a study on landfill capacity and $3.25 million to coordinate and implement forest management strategies.

Additionally, one bill includes $100,000 for the Alaska Division of Agriculture for statewide surveys of invasive species and another includes $750,000 for a Fish and Wildlife Service for an Invasive Species Early Detection Team in Southcentral Alaska.

Appropriations bills fund various government programs and agencies for a fiscal year. Federal fiscal years run from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.

Nine appropriations bills were posted this week, but there are 12 in total, according to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The nine appropriations bills posted this week include:

Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies

Department of Defense

Financial Services and General Government

Department of Homeland Security

Department of Interior, Environment and Related Agencies

Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education and related agencies

Legislative Branch

State Foreign Operations and related programs

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and related agencies

While funding isn’t guaranteed for all projects outlined in Murkowski’s request, Leahy has said that all requests from members of Congress will be “carefully” reviewed. An itemized list of funding requests from Murkowski’s office are grouped by which bill they would be included in.

Murkowski is a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and serves as the Ranking Member of the Interior-Environment appropriations bill.

In a release from her office, Murkowski called the group of appropriations bills a mix of good and bad. She said that while she supports the number of Alaska-specific projects that are included in the legislation, the “level of spending increase proposed by the majority is almost breathtaking.”

“The Committees are still operating without a topline budget number, no agreement has been reached regarding longstanding policy riders, and none of the bills have gone through the Committee process,” Murkowski said in the release. “I realize that this is just one step in the process, but it does not bode well for bipartisan collaboration that could produce bills that reflect both Democratic and Republican funding priorities.”

A full list of Murkowski’s requests can be found on the Senate’s appropriations website at appropriations.senate.gov.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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