$18 million for fisheries projects, aid to fishermen

Posted: Sunday, May 25, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) About $13 million in grants is available for commercial fishing projects around the state under a program announced last month by Gov. Frank Murkowski.

In addition, $5 million in compensation will be doled out to fishermen caught short in the industry's decline.

It's part of a $50 million salmon industry revitalization announced by Murkowski last month, using federal money.

The grant program will award money for new fisheries-related infrastructure or for expansion or improvement of existing facilities. Eligible development projects would have potential to improve seafood quality, product diversity and value, harvesting and processing profitability. Projects that increase industry efficiency and local economies also will be considered.

Some examples are equipment and facilities for freezing and chilling, or transportation infrastructure improvement. Ketchikan wants a cold storage facility, and Dillingham may seek money to build a dock.

Individual boat owners or crew members who fished during the 2002 season and who meet income requirements will be eligible for assistance. The maximum income limit to be eligible for the aid ranges from $11,080 for a fisherman with one dependent to $38,030 for a person with eight dependents.

Lynn Bartlett in the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, said the amount of the grants will depend on the number of qualified applicants. The deadline for applications is June 7, and the state hopes to have checks mailed out by July.

The deadline for development grant applications is June 2. Glenn Haight, a fisheries development specialist with the Department of Consumer and Economic Development, said the agency has not received any applications yet.

An evaluation committee of employees from the state labor, fish and game and economic development agencies will make recommendations, and the administration will have the final say, Haight said.

The evaluation committee will look at several different factors.

''(We'll look at) the applicant ... can they pull off this project? Then we'll look at the need in the community,'' Haight said.

Applicants will have to provide matching money.

The $50 million for industry enhancement came from two sources. Fisheries disaster funds total $35 million, plus there is $15 million for economic development through the Southeast sustainable salmon funds.

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