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Begich Pleased with Bill that Includes Aid for Salmon Disaster and Tsunami Debris

Alaskans hard hit by fisheries disasters in recent years would be eligible for federal assistance, if a comprehensive federal disaster funding bill released today gains final Congressional passage. U.S. Senator Mark Begich joined the other members of Alaska’s congressional delegation in requesting the funding for Alaskans be included in the legislation, which also addresses the recent Superstorm Sandy which devastated the U.S. East Coast.

The measure proposes $150 million for the declared fisheries disasters in Alaska, New England and the Gulf of Mexico. Sen. Begich also requested that the bill includes funding to address the marine debris washing up on the coasts of western states from the Japan earthquake of March 2011.

“The failure of Chinook returns in 2010, 2011 and 2012 had a devastating impact on commercial and subsistence fisheries in Alaska,” Sen. Begich said  “These much-needed funds will help make communities whole and hopefully help fund research on factors affecting Chinook returns.”

The bill also included is $56.8 million for charting, damage assessment and marine debris response. Sen. Begich recently wrote to the Appropriations Committee requesting inclusion of funds for the tsunami debris cleanup and fisheries disaster funding in the Superstorm Sandy supplemental package (the full text of the letter is attached).

“I am pleased Senate appropriators recognized the need for funds to respond to the 2011 tsunami debris,” Sen. Begich said. “ It will be up to NOAA to decide how to allocate those funds between needs for East Coast Sandy response and West Coast tsunami debris response, so I will work closely with the agency to ensure Alaska’s needs get fairly considered.”

“The proposal still must be considered by the Senate, and will have to be aligned with any disaster package from the House of Representatives, so we have a ways to go,” Begich said. “But this is a great first step and an important acknowledgement of Alaska’s dual disasters of fisheries failures and tsunami debris.”

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