Summertime is always busy in Washington, D.C. and before I came home for the district work period this month, Congress was busy passing important legislation for both Alaska and the nation. The House passed my bill to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act for the first time in over a decade, I voted to help end the opioid epidemic through increased treatment and recovery as well as prevention efforts and President Trump signed the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law. This year’s NDAA, which I worked to fight for Alaska focused provisions, will provide for a historic rebuilding of our military, a pay raise for our troops and deliver much needed reform at the VA so our veterans can receive better care.
Those are just to name a few of big ticket items I worked on this summer. My job as your representative is to take the ideas you share with me and translate them into policy solutions in D.C. One of the best ways I can do this is to come home and meet with Alaskans from different backgrounds and different areas. Throughout the year, I have been coming home and traveling across our great state to meet with people face-to-face about the issues they are dealing with on a daily basis. August is one of my favorite months because the days are long in Alaska and I get to spend an extended amount of time in our great state.
As you may have seen, I have been traveling throughout the state to meet with people in small and large communities alike. Lots of ferries, planes and miles driven have made this travel possible as I started the month traveling across Southeast Alaska.
I started off the visit through Southeast in Ketchikan and got off the ferry to enjoy the great weather and meetings. I met with the city officials to discuss the dock expansion they’re working on and how influential tourism has been in this area.
After walking around, we met with veterans over at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) for hamburger night to share a meal and visit with Alaskans. I got to hear their stories about their time defending our country and discuss the importance of ensuring our military has access to resources to continue protecting our freedoms.
I visited with Alaskans at Hamburger Night at the VFW in Ketchikan.
I spoke with many local residents who shared their concerns about ensuring the local economy is able to stay active and diversified which is crucial for the area since the loss of the timber industry. We discussed the recent land transfer around Swan Lake I helped facilitate in Congress which will directly benefit this community to allow for more hydroelectric power. In the House version of the 2018 Farm Bill, I was able to secure a crucial amendment that would repeal the Clinton-era Roadless Rule which led to a detrimental economic decline for many Southeast Alaska communities. These are just some of ways in which I’m working to reinvigorate the economy in Southeast Alaska.
After a six hour ferry ride from Ketchikan to Wrangell, we got straight to work. I met with Alaskans at the famous Stikine Inn to give them an update on the issues I’m working on in D.C. and then sat down to hear from them. We discussed a range issues from MSA reauthorization to the Roadless Rule to health care reform and what we’ve done this Congress to address many of their concerns.
Click here to watch the video from my visit to Wrangell.
After a great night in Wrangell, I joined the new city manager, the Mayor of Wrangell and assembly members to hear from them about local projects they are working on and we had a productive discussion about the completed projects and future projects that will improve the community. I was pleased to learn about many of the water and sewer and infrastructure projects these local leaders are working together to accomplish for residents. We also discussed the potential of hydropower so the area can have a reliable source of energy to power their lives. It was very encouraging to see such dedicated and focused leadership from these local Alaskans.
Before we made our way to the airport to head to Sitka, we met with the Wrangell Cooperative Association to discuss Alaska Native issues on the island. Many of the outreach and community building activities the tribe is working on at this time revolve around being good stewards of the land and continuing to improve infrastructure for Wrangell. We discussed many of the important opportunities for this tribe to partner with the federal government to further empower the tribe.
On our short flight from Wrangell over to Sitka, we got a breathtaking aerial view of Southeast again. I had a great visit in Sitka visiting with the Mayor and local officials to discuss projects they’re working on and how I can continue to help this Southeast community. Investing in the hydropower and water infrastructure projects is crucial for this region as local officials reiterated. Another topic of discussion revolved around ensuring the community has a variety of industries to help foster population growth and education.
Click here to watch the video from my visit to Sitka.
I met with SheeAtika to discuss the projects they are working on and how important the expansion of the 477 program has been for Alaska Natives. I was able to get a community update and discuss other projects they are working on in and around Sitka.
As all Alaskans know, the only way to arrive into the state’s capital is by air or ferry and on this visit we flew in and left on the Alaska Marine Highway. The visit to Juneau was very productive and again, we enjoyed wonderful weather.
The Central Council of Tlingt and Haida invited me to speak at their Alaska Native Issues Luncheon where I was able to share a quick update about what’s happening in Washington and more importantly, engaged in a great question and answer session about many tribal topics.
The Q&A session from the Native Issues luncheon.
Afterwards, I met with Mayor Ken Koelsch for a quick update on what projects the city is working on and walk around to see many of these efforts and visit with local business owners.
Mayor Koelsch and I walked around downtown Juneau.
After our ferry ride from Juneau, we arrived in Skagway where I met with Mayor Monica Carlson to get an update on local projects they are working on and what federal assistance we can collaborate on for the city.
Click here to watch the video from my visit to Skagway.
Afterwards, I visited the newly built police and fire station to hear how they’re using their resources to combat the opioid crisis and keep the community safe. Before making our way to Haines, we got a ride on the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad to see more of Skagway and visit with the employees.
After a great trip to Skagway, we took the ferry over to Haines. I love the ferry system in Alaska because it gives me a chance to visit with Alaskans and see more of the Last Frontier. On the visit, I had the opportunity to meet with Alaskans from many different backgrounds and hear directly from them so I can continue to help communities like Haines.
Click here to watch the video from my visit to Haines.
I met with from leaders within in the Chilkoot Indian Association, heard from veterans at the American Legion, visited the village of Klukwan and toured the Palmer project. I also met with Mayor Jan Hill so she could show me recently completed projects in the borough. Mayor Hill gave me an update on many of the major projects the borough is working on and how I can assist this community at the federal level so they can continue to grow their local economy.
I joined the U.S. Coast Guard Alaska and U.S. Marine Corps to see the Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) they are doing together in Old Harbor. The IRT Old Harbor project is part of a civil and joint military program to improve military readiness while simultaneously providing quality services to communities across the nation. The IRT program began in 1992 when the Department of Defense searched for innovative programs to serve American communities in need and provide realistic military training benefits. The three primary areas of emphasis were health care, infrastructure support and youth training areas.
One of the primary projects they have been working on was the extension and expansion of the Old Harbor airport runway, which was officially unveiled today. I’m proud of the work that went into completing this project and for the economic prosperity it will be bring to the area. This partnership and collaboration represents the importance of our military working both overseas and right here in our own backyard.
Click here to watch the video from my visit to Old Harbor.
Old Harbor is a small community on Kodiak Island and highly dependent on the fishing industry. In order to support economic expansion, the Old Harbor Native Corporation, the City of Old Harbor and the Old Harbor Tribal Council have been working to establish infrastructure needed to start a fish processing operation in the community. The expansion of this runway is crucial to the economic revitalization of the island.
Rafael and his mother and two sisters attended the Medal presentation.
After arriving back at the Coast Guard base in Kodiak, I had the opportunity to present Kodiak High School senior Rafael Bitanga with the Silver Medal he received for the Congressional Award. Rafael earned the Congressional Award for his commitment to improving Kodiak through more than 400 hours of community service.
Over the course of the first two weeks of this August district work period, I traveled to eight different communities throughout Alaska and I haven’t slowed down since. To see more of my travels, make sure to follow my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts to stay up-to-date.
Stay tuned for part two of my August travels through our great state!
Congressman for All Alaska
Dean of the House