Water Infrastructure Development Bill Headed to President’s Desk

Sullivan Secures Provisions Vital to Alaska’s Water and Infrastructure Future

WASHINGTON, DC – This past weekend, U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) voted in favor of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act of 2016 (WIIN), which includes several key provisions vital to Alaska’s water and infrastructure future, and encourages the development of a future deep-water Arctic port. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 78-21 and now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

Under a provision secured by Senator Sullivan in WIIN 2016, a new water infrastructure grant program for small and disadvantaged communities is authorized at $60 million for fiscal years 2017 through 2021, for a total of $300 million over five years. There are still dozens of communities in Alaska without running water or wastewater treatment facilities.

“Our nation’s outdated and crumbling water and wastewater infrastructure is a huge concern for communities all across our country,” said Senator Sullivan. “For Alaska, investment in such infrastructure is crucial. More than 3,300 rural Alaska homes lack running water and a flush toilet, which leads to serious health issues. This is unacceptable. Among other provisions, this bill contains a new grant program that directs funds to such communities. One of my top priorities has been to ensure that the federal government realizes its responsibilities to provide basic infrastructure for its citizens. In addition, I want to thank Senator Murkowski and Congressman Young who were instrumental in helping to secure a number of other priorities for Alaskans in this legislation.” 

Additionally, the WIIN Act of 2016 includes the following priorities for Alaska:

  • Construction authorization for Little Diomede Harbor for a project totaling over $28 million. 
  • Construction authorization for Craig Harbor for a project totaling over $32 million.
  • Arctic Deep?Draft Port: The bill instructs the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in carrying out the feasibility study for the Arctic deep draft port, to consult with the Secretary of Homeland Security to identify benefits in carrying out Coast Guard missions associated with an Arctic deep draft port, and the Secretary of Defense to identify national security benefits associated with an Arctic deep draft port, which may be used as a basis for determining feasibility. Last year, the Army Corps paused the feasibility study of an Arctic deep draft port due to the economic loss of Shell’s withdrawal from the Chukchi Sea. This provision gives another tool to the Army Corps, allowing an Arctic port to be justified based on metrics beyond economics. 
  • Includes language to expedite completion of the report for St. George Harbor.
  • Removes federal interests in a portion of land adjacent to Valdez Harbor, allowing local development of this property.
  • Authorizes the Army Corps to maintain harbors of refuge, which was included to specifically benefit Elfin Cove, which has experienced shoaling in its entrance channels, presenting challenges to safe navigation. 
  • Allows regional benefits to be taken into account when justifying the feasibility of small, remote, subsistence harbor projects, which will help with project justifications statewide, including development of an Arctic port.
  • Allows Alaska Native Corporations to work directly with the Corps as non-federal sponsors in order to develop water infrastructure projects.
  • Extends the 10% set aside from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for emerging harbors through 2025. Emerging harbors are those transiting less than one million tons of cargo annually. 
  • Reauthorization of the Denali Commission at an annual level of $15 million through 2021.

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