Senate infrastructure bill passes with billions for Alaska
The $1 trillion infrastructure bill passed Aug. 10 by the Senate is being called a historic effort to invest in the nation’s roads, broadband and utilities. The bill must still pass the House, and there’s no specific timeline for when that will happen.
The measure includes specific items for Alaska across a variety of categories, according to the bill’s language and details from Republican Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who was part of a bipartisan group of senators who helped create it.
Road construction and repair
• About $3.5 billion would be provided over five years to build, repair and maintain Alaska roads and highways.
• Alaska should receive $225 million to address more than 140 bridges that are labeled “structurally deficient.”
• Alaska should receive $362 million over five years for a mix of transit formula grants available under the Federal Transit Administration, which support public transportation systems.
• Funding is available to help improve a portion of the Alaska Highway in Canada, between the Alaska border and Haines Junction, Yukon, and the Haines Cutoff that goes from Haines Junction to Haines in Alaska.
Mining, oil and gas
• The bill provides more than $4.7 billion to clean up old oil wells, such as those drilled by the federal government on the North Slope. About $150 million will be available to tribes involved in such clean-up, Murkowski said.
• Projects to mine and develop critical minerals in Alaska, such as graphite used in lithium-ion batteries, will be eligible for federal loan guarantees to help them secure financing.
• Some $6 billion will be available for battery processing and manufacturing, including grants for processing facilities, which could help firms looking to produce and refine battery materials such as graphite and rare earth elements in Alaska.
• $18 billion in loan guarantees is available for the Alaska LNG project that seeks to tap long-stored natural gas from the North Slope for delivery in Asia. The guarantees could help the $38 billion project access funding.
Water and wastewater system repair
• The bill contains over $180 million for the state, an amount that will be spread across five years.
• It approves $230 million for the EPA’s Alaska Native villages grant program, which supports new and improved wastewater and drinking water systems. About 245 communities in Alaska are eligible. The bill also increases the federal cost share from 50 percent to 75 percent.
• The measure contains $3.5 billion for Indian Health Services sanitation facilities, with a portion available for Alaska villages without access to running water and sewer.
• About $10 billion is available to states to address PFAS contamination through Clean Water and Drinking Water programs. The funding will focus on small and disadvantaged communities, such as those in Alaska. PFAS are manmade chemicals that have been widely used, including in foam to help fight fires, and have been found in the ground in some Alaska locations. They can damage the liver and immune system and cause birth defects.
• The bill creates a five-year, nationwide subsidy for ferry service in rural areas. The subsidy is about $200 million per year. A portion of that money will go to the Alaska Marine Highway System.
• It changes federal law so the Alaska Marine Highway System can use federal highway-aid money to pay for operations and repairs. The exact amount of ferry funding will still be set by the governor and Alaska Legislature.
• It allocates $250 million for a test program to build electric or “low-emitting” ferries that pollute less than a traditional ferryboat. The bill says at least one grant under the test program must be distributed in Alaska.
• Alaska should receive $73 million under the Construction of Ferry Boats and Ferry Terminal Facilities Program, which includes support for operating costs. Alaska operators that have previously benefited under the program include the Alaska Marine Highway System, Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Inter-Island Ferry Authority, and Seldovia Village Tribe.
• $2.25 billion for the Port Infrastructure Development Program, which will provide funding for ports throughout Alaska.
• Provides $250 million for remote and subsistence harbor construction, important in rural Alaska for delivery of supplies like diesel fuel to run power plants.
• Provides $429 million on the Coast Guard’s unfunded priority list and for child care development centers. The money will support Coast Guard operations in Kodiak, Sitka and Ketchikan.
• Alaska will get at least $100 million to improve internet access, part of $42 billion being provided nationally.
• Alaska Native tribes will receive a share of $2 billion given to the national Tribal Broadband Connectivity Grant program, and another $1 billion is available for middle-mile broadband infrastructure grants.
Railroads and airports
• Alaska will get a share of three big nationwide grant programs. In the bill, those programs receive $25 billion, collectively. The state owned and operated 237 airports as of 2019, most in rural Alaska, according to state figures. Municipal airports, such as those owned by Juneau and Kenai, also stand to benefit.
• Nationally, railroads will receive $5 billion through the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement Program; the Alaska Railroad will receive a share of that money.
• About $215 million will be available over five years to help tribes adapt to climate issues. Of that, $130 million is for community relocation, which can help Alaska villages where land is eroding.
• The Denali Commission, a federal agency created to develop rural Alaska infrastructure, receives $75 million in the bill. Some federal internet-infrastructure improvement programs require local communities to pitch in financially; the bill allows the Denali Commission to pay that local share.
• Provides $146 million for hydropower and marine energy research, which will help support the the Alaska Hydrokinetic Energy Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
• Includes $264 million in funding for geothermal, wind, and solar energy projects, which will help support renewable energy projects in Alaska.
• Provides over $34 billion for programs that support carbon capture and storage, hydropower, and other technologies that could benefit Alaska.
• Provides more than $6 billion for energy efficiency measures such as the Weatherization Assistance Program that can help Alaskans reduce energy costs.
• More than $3.3 billion is available for thinning and controlled burns to help create fuel breaks and reduce wildfire risk on Department of the Interior and Forest Service lands, including in Alaska.
• More than $2 billion will go to the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service to restore the ecological health of lands and waters, including in Alaska.
• Provides $20 million build, upgrade and operate public-use recreational cabins.