The 2014 Omnibus Appropriations bill marks a major benchmark for Senator Lisa Murkowskiâ€™s negotiations for Alaska that address a wide range of marine needs for the state â€“ most notably providing $75 million for recent fishery failures nationwide, including Alaskaâ€™s Chinook disaster in 2012.
It also boosts tsunami debris response efforts, advances a much-needed electronic monitoring alternative for Alaska’s small boat fishing fleet, and millions in government loans to improve the commercial fishing fleet.
“While the spending bill is a clear positive step to deliver relief to Alaskans, it’s not the final step – this is only the end of the beginning. We still must work with other states and the Department of Commerce to determine how these funds are allocated,” said Murkowski. “I will not relent in making the strongest case possible for every Alaskan who suffered due to the anemic Chinook run in 2012. We speedily deliver relief to drought-stricken plain states; fishery disasters are droughts in our rivers and streams, and should be responded to, as well.”
Over the course of 2012 and 2013, Senator Murkowski built a bicoastal, bicameral and bipartisan coalition of Congressional lawmakers to aid Alaskan communities reeling from 2012’s anemic salmon run. The funding bill would allot $75 million to be shared among disaster-struck regions in Alaska, New England, New York and New Jersey, Florida and Mississippi.
The Senator’s focus on the continuing tsunami debris issue resulted in $1M to aid Pacific coastal communities, and requires the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to deliver a report on how federal agencies will work together to resolve lingering tsunami issues. (Senator Murkowski began a push for a tsunami debris task force in 2012.)
Items of interest for Alaskan in the appropriations bill:
- Fisheries Disaster Funding: $75 million for federal fisheries disasters declared by the Secretary of Commerce in 2012 and 2013.
- Marine Debris: The bill includes $6 million, specifically allocating $1 million for the Community Debris Program focused on the 2011 Japanese tsunami.
- Requires NOAA to report on how federal agencies are coordinating to address removal of debris on federal land and respond to potential invasive species.
- Electronic Monitoring: The bill instructs the National Marine Fisheries Service to test the functionality of electronic monitors – designed to ensure compliance with federal regulations while also not requiring an additional person on-board.
- Steller Sea Lions: The bill requires NOAA to report on how the agency is incorporating the independent scientific views into its Biological Opinion. (NOAA is presently considering changes and restrictions on commercial fishing in the Aleutians.)
- Fisheries Finance Program: The bill authorizes the increase to $100 million in low interest government loans for new fishing vessel construction and major rebuilds.
- Alaska Data Buoys: The bill includes $1.7 million to address the current maintenance backlog of research and weather buoys off the coasts of Alaska.