Southeast Communities Will Receive a Share of $56 million in Alaska Fisheries Disaster Relief Funds
By MARY KAUFFMAN
June 23, 2018
“Last year, American fishing communities across the Gulf and Caribbean were devastated by some of the most destructive hurricanes in recent memory, while Pacific fisheries have suffered from years of hardship,” said Secretary Ross. “This Administration stands shoulder to shoulder with these communities as they prove their strength and resilience in the face of adversity.”
Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (D-Sitka) and Representative Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan) welcomed the news that Alaska, including Southeast, will receive a share of the $56 million in federal fisheries disaster relief funds allocated to Alaska.
The 2016 pink salmon fishery’s devastatingly low revenues were felt throughout the state, but the initial request for disaster relief funds was limited to Prince William Sound, Kodiak, Lower Cook Inlet, and Chignik. Rep. Kreiss-Tomkins and Rep. Ortiz, parallel to the work of Senator Bert Stedman (R-Sitka), advocated for the inclusion of Southeast communities in the governor’s disaster relief request in October 2016. (Kreiss-Tomkins & OrtizLetter of October 21, 2016)
"The investment from the federal disaster relief funds will help the fishing industry which is so vital to Southeast economies and communities, especially given the sobering run forecasts this year,” said Rep. Kreiss-Tomkins.
Kreiss-Tomkin said, “All this came about because fishermen contacted their legislators. We turned around and did our honest best to represent their interests and, fortunately, ensure that Southeast Alaska was included with the rest of Alaska and got its fair share.”
“We heard from fisherman here in Southeast who saw a more than 50% drop in revenue,” said Rep. Ortiz. “I’m glad to see that all of the communities affected by the 2016 pink salmon fishery disaster will be receiving compensation.”
According to NOAA, the funds can help commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen, charter businesses, shore-side infrastructure, subsistence users, and the fishing ecosystem and environment. Activities that can be considered for funding include infrastructure projects, habitat restoration, state-run vessel and permit buybacks, job retraining, and other activities, as specified by the law and limits of the request.
NOAA Fisheries used commercial fishery revenue loss as the common metric to allocate funding among eligible disasters. In addition to revenue loss, NOAA also took subsistence uses and long-term impacts to the fishery into account to further ensure an equitable distribution of the $200 million funded.
Following Secretary of Commerce Ross' announcement this week, NOAA said they will be contacing the eligible applicants for both hurricane-affected states and territories and for states and tribes affected by fishery disasters on the West Coast and in Alaska.
Alaska will receive $56,361,332 in disaster relief for economic assistance for entities affected by the 2016 Gulf of Alaska pink salmon fishery failure. The money is part of the $200 million in disaster relief allocated by the Secretary of Commerce in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.
Nine fisheries in Alaska, Washington, California and Oregon as well as fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico will receive funds. Alaska Governor Walker thanked Alaska’s Congressional delegation for their efforts to secure the funds through the Bipartisan Budget Act.
“This is a big deal. Alaska will get more than a quarter of the $200 million dollars allocated to help fishing communities across the country that have faced fisheries related disasters,” Governor Bill Walker said.
Walker said, “Coastal communities have been hurting, and $56 million dollars will go a long way to help the hard-working and resilient Alaskans whose livelihoods and lifestyles depend on fish.”
According to a news release from the governor, the State of Alaska is working collaboratively with NOAA and stakeholders to develop criteria for disbursement of funds. NOAA fisheries will provide notification regarding how to apply for funds through non-competitive awards. The funds can cover a wide range of entities such as commercial fisheries, industries like processors and support facilities, as well as communities affected by the disaster.
U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski, Dan Sullivan, and Rep. Don Young, (all R-Alaska), also welcomed a funding allocation announcement by the Secretary of Commerce for states and territories affected by recent fishery disasters. Alaska's disaster funding of $56,361,332 will support compensation, recovery, and relief for fishermen, communities, and stakeholders affected by the 2016 Gulf of Alaska pink salmon fishery disaster.
“The news of this disaster relief funding for Alaska is incredibly encouraging. These dollars are vital to Alaskans and their families who were hit hard by the 2016 pink salmon fishery disaster,” said the Alaska Congressional Delegation is a joint statement. “This long awaited aid will bring much needed relief to Alaska’s economy, providing compensation and recovery for commercial fisherman, processors, and coastal communities whose livelihood depends on the health of our fisheries. We commend the Secretary of Commerce and are deeply pleased to see our hard work to secure this relief finally come to fruition.”
The Alaska Congressional Delegation worked to secure inclusion of a fisheries disaster funding in the Bipartisan Budget Act, which appropriated $200 million for fisheries disasters across eight states and U.S. territories.
Alaska last received fishery disaster funding in 2014, when $20.8 million was provided for Alaskan fishermen and communities along the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers and in Cook Inlet that were damaged by low Chinook salmon runs in 2012.
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