Sen. Stevens seeks millions for state projects

Posted: Sunday, July 21, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Sen. Ted Stevens emerged from a long day Thursday in the Appropriations Committee room with spending bills that contain millions for Alaska projects and programs.

Stevens met with reporters and looked over a list as he provided a quick summary of Alaska items in the bills the committee passed.

There is $30 million for the Denali Commission to build rural health clinics -- an increase of $10 million over last year and $32.5 million for Native education, Stevens said.

The bills also contain $25 million for salmon recovery efforts, $2 million for groundfish monitoring, $1 million for Bering Sea crab research, $1 million for Yukon River chinooks and $3.2 million for the Alaska Fisheries Information Network.

Stevens said he is especially pleased with the $22.35 million he obtained for Steller sea lion research. Stevens has been pouring money into sea lion research since 1999, when concern for their shrinking population threatened to shut down the Bering Sea pollock industry.

The money has led to sound science that will be used in court someday, he said.

He also secured $20 million for Alaska seafood marketing. In the past, federal money intended to encourage more people to buy Alaska seafood could be used only for domestic marketing, an aide said, but this money would go to a program that allows marketing to other countries.

Stevens also obtained $1 million for a tsunami warning observatory to protect Homer, Kodiak and Seward; $1.5 million to prevent an invasion of Atlantic salmon and other nonnative species; and $6 million to clean up the Pribilof Islands.

''There's 2.5 million for the Alaska criminal justice information system, to integrate federal state and local records, $2 million to train village public safety officers and another $2 million for the Alaska land mobile radio, to build a statewide shared multiagency communication network,'' Stevens said.

As the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Stevens has been able to rake in millions for his home state projects, leading budget watchers to complain that he is one of the biggest pork barrel offenders in Congress.

Stevens says Alaska, with its vast size and lack of infrastructure, has special needs. He said Thursday that a number of his projects, such as the Denali Commission, don't add to the federal budget but only redirect funds.

The bills approved by the Appropriations Committee still must pass the full Senate and then be reconciled with their House counterparts.

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