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Sen. Murkowksi applauds more than $50M in federal funding for a range of Y-K Delta projects

Flood waters from Typhoon Merbok ripped the Joe family’s home from its foundation, turned it around, and dropped it on the side of one of Hooper Bay’s main roads. The windows are broken out, the walls and floors are warped and moldy. Even so, the Joes miss having their own space.
Emily Schwing
Hooper Bay, Alaska

More than $50 million in federal funding is headed for the Yukon-Kuskokwim (Y-K) Delta thanks to a wide-ranging appropriations package recently passed by Congress, according to a press release from United States Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

Highlights for the region include around $6 million each for the villages of Chefornak and Mekoryuk to build their first-ever running water and wastewater collection systems.

Additionally, the coastal village of Hooper Bay is receiving funding for two separate projects. Murkowski said that the need for both became apparent when she visited the village in the aftermath of Typhoon Merbok in 2022.

“It was very clear that their barge landing facility needed to be addressed. Merbok had not been kind,” Murkowski said.

In addition to $5 million for a new barge landing and road, $1.5 million will be going to waste collection and landfill improvements for Hooper Bay.

“I asked to go to the landfill, and the landfill was as maxed out and as inadequate as any landfill I've seen across the state,” Murkowski said.

For Bethel, a range of projects have received funding, including $5 million for removing derelict vessels from nearby Steamboat Slough. The issue has been a source of friction for at least a decade, and who exactly is responsible for the clean-up has been unclear.

“I know the Coast Guard says they're not navigational hazards, they're not environmental hazards. But you know what? They are,” Murkowski said. “I've been out there in the summertime and you have to maneuver your skiff around. In the wintertime, I know there can be obstacles for snowmachiners as they’re running down the slough. So it's just not safe. It's not something that should be allowed to continue.”

Also for Bethel, $3 million will be going to the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC) for a project to construct around 120 units of new employee housing. The health care provider has previously said that the project is critical for recruiting and retaining new employees amid a sustained housing shortage in Bethel.

“We heard very clearly the need from YKHC: there’s got to be more done to get housing so that they can have the staffing that they need,” Murkowski said.

Additionally, $2 million will go to fund renovations and repairs to the Bethel Family Clinic building. Finally, the city’s only homeless shelter, Bethel Winter House, has been awarded $300,000 for individual case management.

As for public safety, a press release from Murkowski’s office also includes mention, without specifying a funding total, of the senator’s support of efforts to stem the flow of illegal drugs into rural Alaska through the federal High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program.

“The real key here is keeping these drugs from getting into the villages. And we know that some of the small villages have been targeted, everything from Quinhagak to Togiak,” Murkowski said. “It has developed into such a lucrative financial gain for the dealers that they're working aggressively to build up the Alaska market in remote areas. And that to me is frightening. We've got to unite together to make sure that these awful, poisonous drugs that are killing our people do not come into the communities.”

The full list of Alaska projects contained in the appropriations package is pages long and spans the entire state. Murkowski said that she was pleased to see multiple projects from the Y-K region previously “put on the back burner” get the funding they need.

Evan Erickson is a reporter at KYUK who has previously worked as a copy editor, audio engineer and freelance journalist.
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