Senate considering $10 million grant to Craig

Posted: Sunday, July 23, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Prince of Wales Island city of Craig had wanted to acquire 4,500 acres in the Tongass National Forest as a way to make some money.

What it may get instead is a $10 million federal handout.

Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens has proposed an amendment to a spending bill for the Interior Department and Forest Service that would provide Craig with the money.

The amendment is expected to be approved when the Senate wraps up work on the spending bill, perhaps next week.

Congress and the Forest Service agree that something needs to be done to help Craig, which for much of the past decade was the fastest-growing area in the state but has too little taxable land to pay for needed services.

Alaska Sen. Frank Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, came to Craig's rescue with legislation that would deed some of the giant Tongass to the town.

That measure was rebuffed by the Forest Service until Murkowski proposed that Craig not get its land until Congress had appropriated money for the Forest Service to buy an equal amount of private land within forest conservation areas, such as inholdings within the Admiralty Island National Monument that the agency badly wants.

Stevens, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, added money to the Forest Service's 2001 budget to begin acquiring lands, but then the Clinton administration balked.

''The administration believes that Congress should provide general fiscal assistance to this city through direct appropriations rather than transfer Forest Service lands in an attempt to generate municipal income through timber harvests,'' the White House said in a budget statement to the Senate this week.

Craig Mayor Dennis Watson has said that Craig would be happy to settle for cash, and that $10 million would be about right.

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