The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Tommy Wells
Seward Phoenix LOG 

Omnibus bill includes funding for key projects


After weeks of political posturing, threats and negotiations, President Donald Trump and the members of the U.S. Senate came to terms on an omnibus bill that will fund the federal government through the remainder of the 2017 fiscal year last week. Trump signed the bill last Friday.

The Seward area, thanks to work by Sen. Lisa Murkowski during the bipartisan negiotiations on the new bill, certainly benefitted. According to provisions in the omnibus bill, the area will recieve more than $1 million in funding for local projects, including the maintenance of the Lowell Creek Diversion Tunnel.

As a member of the Appropriations Committee and Chairman of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, Murkowski said she was able to give Alaskans a strong voice in crafting the bill.

“With our state in the midst of a fiscal crisis, this bill will provide a much-needed boost to our economy,” she said in a press release noting the benefits appropriated to the state in the new bill. “The bill provides new investments for our military, increased funding for fighting wildfires, and it will help Alaskans who grapple with some of the highest heating costs in the nation. This bill empowers Alaskans to strengthen our economy and create safe and healthy communities at a time when we need it most.”

One of the more important additions to the omnibus was a provision that privided funds for the Lowell Creek Division Tunnel. As part of its funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Murkowski noted almost $1 million will be designated for the 77-year-old Lowell Creek Diversion Tunnel. The flood prevention project was initially opened in 1940 as a way to prevent flooding along Jefferson Street in Seward.

Under the new bill, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers received $591,000 for the operation and maintenance of the project. An additional $400,000 was added as part of the bill’s funding package for the state’s harbors.

The City of Homer also received $462,000 for its harbor through the new bill.

The new bill also included funding for a new mapping initiative of the state’s coastline. The initiative will help gather data to improve maps, enhancing safety for activities such as aviation.

Last August, Alaska surpassed the halfway mark in updating the state’s digital mapping and data collection. Currently much of the terrain data in Alaska is more than 50 years old and handsketched from photos shot from World War II reconnaissance craft.

The new bill also provides for the continued operation of the USGS Earthquake and Volcano center.

Another key part of the omnibus bill was a provision allowing the U.S. Forest Service to expand its recreational program by issuing additional special use permits. The move, Murkowski said, would help to expand recreation-based businesses in the Chugach and Tongass National Forests.


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