Begich Cuts Red Tape for Funding Alaska Ports, Harbors
Senator’s Key Provisions to be Included in Final WRRDA Bill
U.S. Senator Mark Begich today hailed near-final approval of major ports and harbors legislation as a big win for Alaska after House and Senate conferees reached a final agreement on the Water Resources and Reform Development Act (WRRDA). The bill governs how the Army Corps of Engineers constructs ports, harbors and coastal erosion projects.
The bill is scheduled to be released Thursday. According to briefings it will include several key Alaska provisions thanks to Begich's leadership.
The Senate passed its version of the ports and harbors bill (S. 601) last May by a strong bipartisan vote of 83-14. Begich voted in favor of the bill. After the House passed its own version, a conference committee began meeting to iron out the differences. The final bill is now headed to both houses of Congress for final passage and could be approved as early as next week.
"I worked hard to secure millions of dollars that will now be coming home to Alaska for our ports and harbors,” said Begich. “Today’s bipartisan progress will translate into more jobs for Alaskans, the elimination of bureaucratic red tape, and investment that will be an economic boost for local communities.”
Begich was pleased to announce several Alaska-specific provisions he has championed:
Streamlining small harbor project approval and dedicating funds for Alaska: The provision included at Begich’s request represents a major overhaul of how port and harbor projects can be built in Alaska. The new language would allow small projects to avoid a cumbersome approval process in which they had to compete for funding with much bigger ports. Under the agreement small, remote and subsistence harbors in Alaska, Hawaii and the U.S. territories can receive dedicated funding of up to $10 million per project.
Arctic ports partnership: The provision, which was originally an amendment offered by the Alaska delegation, expands the authority of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to engage in partnerships with state, local and tribal governments to develop deep water ports in the Arctic.
Development of Seward harbor uplands: A provision, included at Senator Begich’s request, allows recently filled-in uplands from Seward’s harbor expansion to be developed, by lifting the ‘navigational servitude’ and allowing for clear titles to the land to be issued.
Continuation of Tribal partnerships: A final provision authorized the continuation of the Army Corps successful Tribal Partnership Program, which allows the Army Corps to conduct studies to determine the feasibility of development projects that will substantially benefit Alaska Native villages.