Murkowski sees opportunities for Wrangell in infrastructure finance


While its passage is uncertain amid partisan battles in Congress and even disagreements among majority Democrats, the trillion-dollar infrastructure bill could be an opportunity for federal aid with costly improvements to the government system. Wrangell Water Supply.

However, all communities in Alaska “need to be honest about the timing,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski, who visited Wrangell last weekend. In addition to waiting for Congress to vote on the legislation, “we know what it means to put a (big) project online,” the top US state senator said.

Nationally funded work under the legislation could easily extend into 2022, 2023 or beyond, she said.

The Senate approved the measure in August, with a House vote slated for later this month, though the bill is politically tied to a much larger Democratic-led spending program that lacks bipartisan support.

As well as waiting for Congress to take action and federal departments to administer the funds, “there is a level of enthusiasm for what this can bring,” Murkowski said of the measure that would finance water. , highway, bridge, airport, port and other projects.

“Here in Wrangell, you have a dam that has been named the second most dangerous dam in the entire state,” the senator said in an interview on Saturday.

Reconstruction of the two reservoirs has been estimated at around $ 50 million, well beyond Wrangell’s financial capacity without significant state or federal assistance. The original lower crib dam was built in 1900 and the upper crib dam was built in 1935, although several improvements have been added over the years, according to a 2018 report to the borough assembly. .

A 2015 state report said reservoir dams are stable, but are at risk of rupture “during a significant seismic event.”

Murkowski said the borough would have to have engineering studies and cost estimates ready if infrastructure legislation is passed and grants open later.

In addition to the tanks, the Wrangell water treatment plant needs a system upgrade or replacement to better clean the water before it is piped throughout town. This project was last estimated at $ 10 million, although the borough has federal grants to cover most of the costs.

The senator said that the port works could be another opportunity for the community in the infrastructure bill.

One provision in the bill provides up to $ 250 million for “remote” ports, such as Wrangell, that do not have rail or road access to another port. “It’s their own money pool,” Murkowski said.

A more immediate federal concern in Wrangell is the U.S. Census, which showed the community lost around 10% of its population between 2010 and 2020, dropping 242 people.

Many federal and state financial aid programs are population-based, which adds importance for an accurate tally. Borough officials said last month they disagreed with the count and would investigate the census numbers, looking for evidence of errors and whether Wrangell can dispute the numbers.

“It is very difficult” to appeal a census, warned Murkowski. “We have to show that (the tally) has been so blatant that it has a substantial impact” on the community.

The senator said her office would work with Wrangell to determine what options might be available to challenge the census figures.

By: Larry Persily


Wrangell Sentinel

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