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Murkowski Brings U.S. Senate Hearing to Kodiak Hangar

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a U.S. Senate field hearing at U.S. Coast Guard Base Kodiak, Senator Lisa Murkowski and Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Mary Landrieu (D-LA) discussed the imperative needs of the Coast Guard in northern waters with four witnesses and an audience gathered at Base Support Unit Hanger 3.

Senator Murkowski opened by highlighting the commitment level of the Coast Guard, who are continuously asked to guard more of Alaska’s waters as ice recedes and widens their operation area – without a proportionate rise in funding.   “We put you in harm’s way to guard us,” said Murkowski, “We must ensure you have the assets to do what you do so honorably.”

Senator Landrieu echoed the concerns of Senator Murkowski – who stressed that America is an Arctic Nation and must place a higher priority on our efforts up north – by saying that many decision makers in Congress and in the White House haven’t fully realized this fact. “The alarm has sounded, but we keep hitting the snooze button,” said Landrieu.

The Senators then questioned United States Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Robert J. Papp over matters ranging from the nation’s need for icebreakers to the response capabilities supporting offshore exploratory drilling.  On the issue of icebreakers, Papp says that once the Polar Star returns to the water, that gives America enough cover as it finalizes a long-term plan; with regards to response abilities, Papp told the Senators that there will be over 20 vessels in the Beaufort/Chukchi areas if Shell gets to drill.

The final panel – consisting of  Dr Mark Myers of University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Merrick Burden with the Marine Conservation Alliance, and Bruce Harland of Crowley Marine – discussed the rise of technology in informing navigation and research capabilities in Arctic waters, along with the rise of shipping traffic through narrow regions like the Unimak Pass and the Bering Strait.

Anchorage reporters wishing to talk with Senators Murkowski and Landrieu are invited to attend a press availability tonight at 6:30pm at the Signature Terminal, 6231 South Airpark Place, Anchorage.

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