Federal bill contains additional $1 million for Fairbanks visitor center

Posted: Tuesday, June 27, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- An additional $1 million for a new visitor center in Fairbanks has been included in the Senate version of the Interior Department spending bill.

The Senate already authorized $800,000 through the Department of Transportation's appropriation bill, which still must obtain approval from a House-Senate conference committee.

The visitor center, as envisioned by Sen. Ted Stevens, would combine three proposals sent to him by the Fairbanks community. It would house the existing Alaska Public Lands Information Center, a new visitor center proposed by city Mayor Jim Hayes and an Athabascan cultural center proposed by Tanana Chiefs Conference.

Stevens said the center would be named the ''Morris Thompson Visitor and Cultural Center,'' after the Native leader who died with members of his family in the Alaska Airlines jet crash off the California coast on Jan. 31.

Thompson served 15 years as president of Doyon Ltd., the Interior's regional Native corporation. He also was the head of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs during the mid-1970s.

The $1.8 million tentatively allocated to the project is for planning, not construction.

The bill, one of 13 appropriations bills covering the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, now goes to the Senate floor.

Some other large proposed items of Alaska interest include:

--$3.76 million for a visitor center at Coldfoot on the Dalton Highway. Stevens said the current center, built 12 years ago, is unsafe and too crowded.

--$4 million for the Alaska Federal Health Care Access Network. The so-called ''telemedicine'' project also has money in the defense, agriculture and health and human services appropriations bills. The budget is $30 million over five years.

--$1.18 million for Yukon River salmon management. The money would pay for monitoring, public education, management studies and ongoing work by the U.S. members of a joint panel formed with the Yukon Territory.

--$2.5 million for a diesel desulfurization process being worked upon by Petro Star Inc., which runs refineries in North Pole and Valdez. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed tight new standards for sulfur in diesel. Stevens said those standards have endangered the refinery.

--$2 million for a fuel cell demonstration project in Nuiqsut. Fuel cells are devices that produce electricity directly from fuel without the traditional engine and dynamo.

--$3 million to inventory and catalog minerals data from around the state.

--$3 million for the Alaska Volcano Observatory, which keeps track of volcanic activity in Alaska.

--$5 million for staff quarters at the Bethel hospital.

--$3.8 million to buy out mining claims in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, $3 million more than the Clinton administration's request.

--$10 million to work on methods of capturing carbon dioxide that normally escapes during oil well drilling and reinjecting into the ground. Stevens said BP and other Alaska companies developed the technology.

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