Senate Unanimously Passes Coast Guard Authorization Bill

Bill Strengthens Coast Guard, Protects Alaska’s Fishermen, Transfers Federal Lands to Alaska, Buoys Expansion of Icebreaker Fleet

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), a member of the Senate Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, today welcomed unanimous passage of the Coast Guard Authorization Act, which included several key provisions vital to Alaskans’ interests. 

“Today’s unanimous passage of this important legislation demonstrates Congress’s strong commitment to the U.S. Coast Guard, which serves countless Alaskans in every corner of our state,” said Senator Sullivan. “Working with members of the Senate Commerce Committee as well as Senator Lisa Murkowski and Congressman Don Young, I am pleased to have included important provisions for Alaska’s commercial fishermen, the transfer of federal lands back into the hands of Alaskans, and for the expansion of our icebreaker fleet.”

Specifically, the Coast Guard Authorization Act includes: 

  • The Port Spencer Land Conveyance Act, which conveys land at Point Spencer to the Bering Straits Native Corporation and the State of Alaska for potential infrastructure development.
  • A land conveyance in Tok, which will allow the Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC) to continue operating the Tok Area Counseling Center, the only behavioral health center in the region.
  • A provision that would reduce the cost of building a new fishing vessel, thereby encouraging new construction by providing a safe alternative to requiring costly certification by classification societies. 
  • Language that would pave the way for growing America’s polar icebreaker fleet by allowing the Coast Guard to pay for a polar icebreaker incrementally, rather than requiring full funding in a single year. The bill would also require the Coast Guard to determine the feasibility of refurbishing the icebreaker, “Polar Sea,” which has been laid up since suffering a catastrophic engine failure in 2010.

Senator Sullivan also championed the following three amendments that were included in the final bill:

  • The Pribilof Islands Transition Act Amendments of 2015, which would finalize land transfers and conveyances owed to the people of St. Paul under the Fur Seal Act Amendments of 1983 and the Pribilof Transition Act of 2000.
  • Cosponsored an amendment sponsored by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), which extends combat-related special compensation to members of the Coast Guard, commensurate with other branches of the military. 
  • Cosponsored an amendment sponsored by Sen. Cantwell (D-WA), which authorizes $4 million in FY 2016, and $10 million FY 2017 for a feasibility study, specification development, and any other pre-acquisition activities necessary for procuring a polar icebreaker.

The legislation, which heads to the House of Representatives for passage, authorizes funding to support the mission and needs of the U.S. Coast Guard through 2017.