Federal act funds water infrastructure in western AK

A crew works on a sewer system in a rural Alaska village. Photo courtesy USDA Rural Development.
A crew works on a sewer system in a rural Alaska village. Photo courtesy USDA Rural Development.

Introduced in February of last year, the Water Resources Development Act, now called the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, has officially been signed into law. After passing the president’s pen December 16th, the bill brings money to improve Alaskan water and sewer conditions all over the state.

Senator Dan Sullivan says it provides a brand new program: “I think it’s going to disproportionately benefit Alaska, because we have the most challenges on this issue.” Provisions in the bill provide $300 million over a 5-year period.

That’s good news for any of the 30 communities in Alaska that go without access to water or wastewater services.

Though the bill no longer carries the $1.4 billion in funding like its earlier version, Sen. Sullivan says big-ticket projects, like the creation of a harbor for Little Diomede, weren’t abandoned.

The WIIN Act will help with the creation of harbors in Craig, St. George, and Elfin, as well. Additionally, the bill accommodates a deep draft port feasibility study. Sullivan says the bill encourages the Army Corps of Engineers to look past Shell’s withdrawal from the Chuckchi Sea, which, he says, is a leading reason why the study was put on hold.

“What the bill does is that it instructs the Corps of Engineers that they need to focus not just on the oil and gas issues with Shell but broader national security benefits that would accompany an Arctic deep-draft port.”

According to Senator Sullivan, 3,300 rural Alaska homes lack running water and a flush toilet.

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