Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Hill considers Washington, D.C. trip to seek funds

 


Haines Borough Mayor Jan Hill said a recent visit to town by U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, was encouraging and Hill is considering a trip to Washington, D.C., to push for federal funding of specific projects.

“(Murkowski) had no news for us, but made a clear invitation that it was time to come back to D.C. to see her,” Hill said in a recent interview. “She loves Haines. That’s a message she made repeatedly.”

Murkowski toured Picture Point, the boat harbor and Main Street during a half-day stop here during Beer Fest and spoke during the event’s gourmet dinner May 29.

Hill said Murkowski was aware of permit issues surrounding the harbor, but not the funding situation. “I told her that we had no federal funding in the project to date and she looked at me amazed. Shortly after that, she made the offer that I should come to D.C.”

Hill said she envisions that her trip to see Alaska’s federal delegation would include seeking funding for the harbor, a new sewage treatment plant and repairs to the Lutak Dock, the borough-owned freight port. “Those three need more funding and (Murkowksi) is aware of that,” Hill said.

Hill said there’s money in the borough budget for a trip to Washington.

When asked about funding possibilities for those projects, Murkowski press aide Karina Petersen said via email, “It may be difficult to find funding this year, as the Appropriations Committee has already marked up more than half of its bills – including the Energy & Water bill, which has now passed the Senate. The Senate also continues to have an earmark ban, which complicates Senator Murkowski’s ability to secure funding for individual projects that are not included in the President’s budget request.”

Petersen went on to say that Murkowski “will certainly look for opportunities – including through funds that will be appropriated without specific direction – to ensure that federal agencies help address Haines’ most pressing needs.” 

Assembly member and former Mayor Mike Case said that getting funds through the federal delegation was something of a “crapshoot” but showing up in person also carries some weight.

Case recounted a trip to Washington, D.C., he made as Mayor with former assembly member Doug Olerud and former manager Robert Venables, seeking harbor funding about 12 years ago. At the time, the borough employed a lobbyist in Washington, who had introduced them to officials with federal agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“We ultimately didn’t get the money but they knew we were there and were appreciative of the fact that we came. It’s a good thing to try. You’re not going to get anything without asking,” Case said. “Maybe with (Murkowski’s) invitation, she’ll try a little bit harder to make things happen.”

Commercial fisherman Norman Hughes, who chairs the borough’s Ports and Harbors Advisory Committee, said a Corps of Engineers official a few years ago referenced a harbor fund for small communities like Haines.

Due to lack of funding prospects and difficulty working with the agency, the borough abandoned efforts to secure Corps of Engineers funding for the harbor. It instead received $20 million for the project through a statewide bond. The project is still roughly $10 million short of its $30 million preferred design.

During her visit here, Murkowski said she wasn’t aware of the fund he referenced, Hughes said. But if money could come from the Corps for breakwater construction or dredging, the borough might be able to use state funding to pay for infrastructure such as floats, he said. “We have to be creative.”

Hill said she also was encouraged by a discussion she had recently with state Rep. Charisse Millett, R-Anchorage, who spent three days here. “She asked what our priorities are and where we needed help. She knew what we were trying to get funded.”

 
 

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