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Action speaks loudest.
Since the beginning of the Trump administration, Alaska has been the host to at least two federal department chiefs — two come quickly to mind, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who was here this week.
Both came at the behest of Alaska’s senators in Washington, D.C. — Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan — which illustrates well the power and influence, as well as the welcoming personalities, of the two.
Murkowski, after 15 years in the Senate, has begun to attain the power reminiscent of the late Sen. Ted Stevens, who spent 40-some years serving Alaska. She is on the Appropriations, and Energy and Natural Resources committees in addition to Indian Affairs; and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. While Sullivan is a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, as well as Armed Services, Environment and Public Works, and Veterans’ Affairs.
The duo favors responsible development of Alaska’s natural resources and reducing the red tape that delays and prevents projects of all economic benefit from moving forward.
Toward that end, Sullivan and Murkowski welcomed Chao to Alaska during the Senate’s August break.
This week Chao spoke with transportation officials and industry in Alaska, coming to the conclusion that the federal government will more quickly advance projects, which here-to-date were delayed by a burdensome regulatory process.
This is no small matter in that Alaska receives about $500 million annually for its transportation projects through the Federal Highway Administration. Alaska matches federal dollars with a 10-percent contribution.
Toward alleviating project delays, Chao noted that Alaska has become only the seventh state to acquire an agreement with the federal government that allows it to conduct environmental reviews for state-federal highway projects.
The agreement, which is under the National Environmental Policy Act, is expected to be signed in October, according to Chao.
Environmental protections will remain and the federal government will monitor the state’s reviews, but projects should be able to move forward more efficiently.
Ketchikan and southern Southeast Alaska benefit from federal highway funds through road projects and building of Alaska Marine Highway System ships.
There’s considerable noise coming out of Washington, D.C. since Trump’s inauguration. It’s difficult at times to know what’s true and what isn’t, with politicians and pundits presenting points of view favorable to their preferences and possibly not the states’ and nation’s.
Alaskans can tune the noise out and look at what’s being accomplished for Alaska.