Senator Lisa Murkowski visits Nome
By Peter Loewi
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was in town on Monday and Tuesday this week to talk about the work she has been doing in Washington D.C. and to hear from Nome about the work going on here.
It was well past time, she said, since the pandemic shutdown curbed the ability to get out into Alaska communities. “I have been itching to come back up,” she said. “We’ve watched the numbers very carefully for COVID, because we need to respect what’s happening on the ground and respect how people are feeling and their comfort levels.”
Her trip to Nome included a special session of the Nome Common Council to discuss infrastructure and utilities priorities. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was led by a core group of bipartisan senators including Murkowski, included funds to the Army Corps of Engineers for the Nome Port Expansion. It also includes funding more broadly for broadband, water and waste, as well as airports.
The Senator said that over 1,300 people attended an infrastructure grant symposium that she organized and that was held last week in Anchorage.
Following the council meeting, Murkowski and staff got a tour from NJUS of the Banner Ridge Wind Farm.
The wind farm, which currently generates around 7 percent of the community’s annual electric needs, could be expanded. A project mentioned at the council meeting showed that wind power could increase to fulfill at least 25 percent of Nome’s power needs by 2024, reducing Nome’s reliance on diesel by over half a million gallons a year. With gas prices expected to jump a dollar per gallon with the next barge, the appeal of the switching to renewable energies is clear.
The Senator also met with the Bering Sea Women’s Group, and in an interview with the Nugget, talked about the importance of the Violence Against Women Act, which was reauthorized in March of this year following Murkowski’s introduction of the legislation. “We know that our rates of domestic violence are far too high,” she said. The reauthorization also has a special tribal pilot program which allows for concurrent jurisdiction between the state and tribes and makes the same type of resources available to Alaskan tribes that were already available to some tribes in the Lower 48 following the 2013 reauthorization of VAWA.
Before sitting down for interview at The Nome Nugget, Murkowski took a couple of minutes to tour the Nugget archives, enjoyed some 100-year-old congressional reporting and even found the 1932 announcement of her mother’s birth.
With Russia being a mere 57 miles away and $250 million for the design of the port expansion coming from the Army Corps of Engineers, the question of the role of the military and the purpose of the port came up. A report last week from the Inspector General of the Department of Defense said that the six Arctic/Sub-Arctic military installations, five of which are in Alaska, were not adequately adapting to climate change. “Military installation leaders focused on existing weather and energy challenges rather than analyzing their installations’ infrastructure, assets, and mission exposure and vulnerability to climate change,” the report reads.
Asked how Nome can, should they find matching funds necessary to design and build the port, hold the other funders accountable, Murkowski said, “I think the phrase is ‘Nothing in the Arctic without the people of the Arctic.’ We say that all the time, and we really need to mean it. Making sure there is representation at different levels in different places is a significant part of what has to be done.”
Her trip also included visits to NSEDC, KNOM radio station, Nome Elementary School’s Inupiaq Immersion class, and a public Meet-and-Greet.