Opinion: Alaska to benefit greatly from historic infrastructure bill
Several years ago, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Alaska’s infrastructure a C-minus rating. Their report reiterated what too many Alaskans know and face every day: our still young state lacks water and wastewater, ports and harbors, shipping, energy and electrical infrastructure, and more. Even in our top ranked areas – like roads and airports – Alaska still has a lot of room for improvement.
One of the best ways to address these gaps is to bring timely federal funding and assistance back to the country. This is where I put my attention, and a historic infrastructure bill that will bring tremendous benefits to our state is now at hand.
Over the past few months, I have worked with nine other senators to achieve a bipartisan consensus on traditional “core” infrastructure. Our bill will provide an additional $ 550 billion for these priorities over the next five years without raising taxes. It will raise our standard of living, create jobs and opportunities, and curb inflation that threatens families and businesses.
I was able to add many provisions to our bipartisan bill that are intended to help Alaska.
Alaska will receive billions of dollars to build, maintain and modernize our roads, railways, and to repair our state’s more than 140 structurally deficient bridges. To help tackle some of our most pressing challenges, we are creating a pipeline for projects in rural Alaska.
Our bill recognizes that Alaskans often travel by air or sea and invests in the lifelines that connect our communities â our marine road system, ferries, ports and small airports. The funding we receive will facilitate a new program for an essential ferry system and an electric or low-emission ferry pilot program.
To make Alaska’s lack of water and wastewater infrastructure a thing of the past, we are supporting the EPA’s Alaska Native Village Grants Program so communities can build and improve their water supply systems. We are also providing funding for Indian health services sanitation facilities to ensure that our rural communities can finally have piped water and sewer service to their homes.
In light of our increasingly connected world, our bill takes important steps to bring broadband to rural areas at high cost, both through the Tribal Connectivity Grant Program and another for the construction, improvement or acquisition of intermediate infrastructure.
To address the twin challenges of high energy prices and climate change in Alaska, we have prioritized energy infrastructure and resilience to help communities build cleaner, more reliable and more affordable systems. Part of that means funding for my Energy Act, which Congress passed last year to spur innovation in everything from energy storage and renewables to carbon capture, modernization of the network and hydrogen.
Another area of ââinterest is the reconstruction of national supply chains. We have included the licensing reforms I drafted to help reverse our reliance on foreign minerals, which we can start to do by responsibly producing more critical minerals here in Alaska.
Our bipartisan bill also includes my tongue to ensure that the Alaska pipeline project is eligible for a multibillion dollar loan guarantee from the Department of Energy. This will help us overcome a critical sticking point as we seek to commercialize North Slope natural gas.
Another great victory concerns forest fire preparedness. Significant funding is provided to support Mechanical Thinning and Community Forest Fire Defense grants. A simplified NEPA permit is included to build fuel breaks.
The above items are just the beginning of what is in our bipartisan Alaska bill. But it’s important to distinguish it from what Congress will soon undertake: a fully partisan abuse of the budget process that will spend up to $ 3.5 trillion, impose sweeping tax hikes that hit countless small businesses, and willfully deprive Alaska of economic opportunity. The partisan âreconciliationâ process could not be more different from the approach we took on our bipartisan bill, where we focused on reducing the distance between parties rather than amplifying it. Our bipartisan bill passed the Senate with nearly 70 votes and garnered immense support from the Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO and hundreds of other groups.
The bipartisan infrastructure bill is one of the most important legislative efforts I have worked on. It is good for the nation and will bring huge benefits to Alaska that will pay off for decades to come. This historic measure is now pending in the House of Representatives, where it should be taken up and adopted without further delay. Our infrastructure demands it, and Alaskans deserve no less.
Senator Lisa Murkowski represents Alaska in the United States Senate.