Alaska's share of CARA funding shrinks

Posted: Thursday, January 18, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The compromise version of Sen. Frank Murkowski and Rep. Don Young's conservation lands legislation dubbed ''CARA lite'' is lighter than first announced -- at least in the amount of money Alaska stands to get.

When the final piece of the legislation was passed in mid-December, Murkowski said Alaska would get about $85 million in new federal funding this year. It appears now the state may be getting closer to $50 million.

The money will pay for programs like park improvements, historic preservation, wildlife conservation and possibly land acquisition, with $10 million going to the Alaska SeaLife Center at Seward.

Although less than first expected, state officials said they still were thrilled to get the money.

''Obviously, we're pleased. But those who followed the CARA package through Congress may be disappointed,'' said Patrick Galvin, director of the state Office of Governmental Coordination.

Galvin's office is expecting about $13 million for coastal programs. Some of that might go to help communities like Shishmaref that suffer from beach erosion.

CARA's original purpose was to mitigate the effects of offshore oil and gas development and buy land for parks, wildlife refuges and recreation.

The bill Young shepherded through the House of Representatives would have provided states $45 billion over 15 years; Alaska would have received $164 million annually.

The bill died in the Senate. Young and Murkowski crafted the compromise, which put $1.6 billion into two spending bills for 2001 to accomplish some of the same goals.

Murkowski's spokesman, Chuck Kleeschulte, said he didn't think Alaska's portion would be as low as $50 million once all the money was accounted for. Part of the discrepancy is a big chunk of money for salmon habitat improvements.

Kleeschulte said he thought Alaska was getting $36 million for salmon habitat. Amy Skilbred, who oversees the Pacific salmon recovery fund for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said the figure really is $8 million.

Aside from that difference, Kleeschulte said computer models had in a couple of cases overestimated Alaska's piece of the ''CARA lite'' pie. ''These were the best estimates we had,'' at the time the bill passed, he told the Anchorage Daily News.

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