PUBLISHED: 4:51 PM on Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Sen. Stevens pushes for EAS, alternative energy funding
The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee has approved the fiscal year 2009 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, which provides about $150 million in funding for Alaska projects.

The bill includes $125 million in funding for the Essential Air Service, a program that serves 39 Alaska communities. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, said securing funds for Essential Air Service is crucial for rural Alaska.

"Congress must ensure that these communities, which are reliant on air travel for their livelihoods, have access to safe and reliable transportation. In rural Alaska, Essential Air Service is truly our lifeline," he said.

The measure also includes $2.8 million in economic development initiatives that would fund construction and renovation of housing and community centers throughout Alaska.

At Stevens' request, the legislation would provide the Alaska Trails Initiative with $2 million, which would preserve and expand trails statewide. The Denali Commission would receive an additional $6 million for planning, designing, engineering and constructing roads and other surface transportation infrastructure in rural communities in the state.

Meanwhile, the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2009, currently in the Senate, includes $3.5 million for geothermal and biomass energy projects in Alaska.

The measure, which was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee, would also provide $4.5 million to combat coastal erosion, $6 million for energy research and $21.8 million to the Denali Commission.

"Alternative energy opportunities in Alaska are enormous, but it takes a large investment to get them started," said Stevens, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. "The funds in this bill will help get these energy projects moving forward, which will bring long-term relief to Alaskans."

The spending bill also contains more than $45 million for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects throughout Alaska. The funds will go to harbor maintenance, harbor construction in 13 Alaska communities, and to mitigate the effects of coastal erosion.

The bill also provides about $150 million in funding for various other Alaska projects.

The alternative energy funding includes $6 million for the Arctic Energy Office in Fairbanks for research in fossil energy, natural gas technologies and oil technologies, plus $3 million for the Southwest Alaska Regional Geothermal energy project in Naknek for an exploratory well, and $500,000 to Alaska Village Initiatives for biomass for energy generation in rural Alaska.

Another $21.8 million is earmarked for Denali Commission public works projects.