It’s a checkmark in the “done” column.
The U.S. Senate passed a 2017 appropriations bill this week, removing the all-too-frequent worry of whether the government will shut down.
Instead of dragging out the question of whether it will, the bill covers federal expenses through the end of September. Federal agencies have their answer in what will be paid for.
In Ketchikan, the answer is particularly welcome.
An item included in the bill will eliminate the possibility of timber harvest on a portion of the community’s scenic Deer Mountain.
The item calls for a land trade between the U.S. Forest Service and Alaska Mental Health Trust.
The trade involves a portion of Deer Mountain and other land in Southeast Alaska amounting to about 18,000 acres for about 21,000 acres of federally owned land on Prince of Wales Island and in the Shelter Cove area of Revillagigedo Island.
The trust pursued the trade for the past 10 years. Sen. Lisa Murkowski introduced legislation for the trade a year ago. The legislation failed by year’s end, but by then the trust had decided it had waited long enough and would offer a timber sale on Deer Mountain.
This riled up the community. Lawmakers quickly responded and, as seen this week, the legislation made it into the appropriations bill.
The trust is obligated to generate revenue from its land to support mental health services in Alaska.
The appropriations bill also contains $3.1 million for maintenance at Ketchikan’s Thomas Basin, and its funding for agencies will affect the community and southern Southeast in other areas, as well.
Funding is included to address the opioid and heroin epidemic, Arctic exploration and development, rural aviation, biomass energy, fisheries, and oceans and river water quality. It also continues the Payment In Lieu of Taxes program, a means by which the federal government contributes as a property owner to communities.
Ketchikan’s appropriations success is reminiscent of the days of earmarks a decade ago. The late Sen. Ted Stevens delivered billions of dollars in earmarks to Alaska through chairing and serving on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
With Stevens influence, he was able to deliver for Alaska. Fifteen years later, Alaska’s senior senator and Stevens’ successor, Murkowski has acquired similar influence and earned the respect to deliver for Alaska, particularly for Ketchikan this session.
Alaska’s junior senator, Dan Sullivan, shares her passion for delivering for Alaskans and supported the appropriations bill and the issues relevant to Alaska, too.
The Alaska delegation, which is complete with Congressman Don Young, delivered for Ketchikan and Southeast Alaska
It’s a job well “done.”
— Ketchikan Daily News, May 6, 2017