Congressional recess; presidential race, leave Alaska issues in limbo

Posted: Wednesday, November 15, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- More than a score of priorities for Alaska's congressional delegation remain unresolved now that lawmakers are leaving Washington until Dec. 5 or later.

Congress decided to delay its lame duck session until the presidential election is decided.

That leaves several annual spending bills unfinished and some major legislative changes undone. Congress was expected to work out its differences with President Clinton sometime this week, but the delay means the Alaska-related items will be sitting in limbo.

In late October, Sen. Frank Murkowski was upbeat about the chances for several of his initiatives, but he is more hesitant now.

''When I made that projection, I had not contemplated this dilemma on the presidency,'' Murkowski told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on Tuesday. ''Believe me, the jury is still out.''

Among other things, that includes proposals to pay extra for Alaska's Medicaid costs, to limit cruise ship waste dumping in Southeast Alaska, to provide more salmon disaster aid to Western Alaska and to stop a court-ordered ban on nearshore pollock fishing in the Gulf of Alaska and along the Aleutian Islands.

Other major Alaska items in the unresolved spending bills include:

--$22.3 million for Steller sea lion research.

--$14 million for the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward.

--$60 million through the State Department to carry out the 1999 Pacific Salmon Treaty with Canada. The money will go into accounts that earn interest, which will then be spent on salmon management in Alaska and Pacific Northwest states.

--$15 million for a new fisheries lab at Lena Point in Juneau.

--A moratorium on unauthorized hunting of belugas in Cook Inlet. Hunting would still be allowed under a co-management agreement between Native organizations and the NMFS.

--$8.3 million for a NOAA fisheries research vessel to be based in Kodiak.

--$1.5 million for Yukon River king salmon management, including $500,000 to the Yukon River Fisheries Drainage Association, a fishermen's group, for projects.

--$1.5 million for the Kodiak NOAA lab's lease payment.

--$950,000 for Alaska Native groups, such as the Eskimo Whaling Commission and the Beluga Whale Committee, to monitor and coordinate marine mammal harvests with federal agencies.

--$5 million to finish a joint federal agency office in Homer.

--$3.45 million for an undersea research program run by the University of Alaska.

--$1.5 million to the Justice Department for a cold weather testing center in Alaska for ''law enforcement technologies.''

--$2 million to the Alaska Native Justice Center for ''restorative justice'' efforts like ''circle sentencing.''

--$1 million to the Fairbanks North Star Borough for a centralized emergency dispatch center.

--$6.5 million for the Alaska Department of Public Safety for various information and training efforts.

--$1.5 million to pay for centers where suspected child abuse victims could be interviewed simultaneously, just once, by the various officials involved in such cases. And,

--$3 million for an Alaska fisheries data network.

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