Kreiss-Tomkins backs funding for NOAA research, Sitka harbors

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, is based in Washington state. But Sitka Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins wants to see NOAA’s Alaska-focused staff, programs and assets relocated closer to home.

House Resolution 8 requests NOAA fully staff the Auke Bay Laboratories, located at the Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute in Juneau. The resolution also asks for the Alaska Fisheries Science Center Director to remain in Juneau. AFSC is currently headquartered in Seattle.

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Kreiss-Tomkins, one of the resolution’s sponsors, wants to see Alaska’s fisheries management happen on the ground.

“Just as I think people get frustrated with decisions being made from Washington D.C., particularly if those decisions don’t incorporate the nuance of a local issue, you can have a similar dynamic. I think it just makes sense for resources to be managed in the place where resources exist,” Kreiss-Tomkins said.

House Resolution 8 passed the House earlier this month by a vote of 36 to 1. Kreiss-Tomkins calls it ammunition for a larger effort by Alaska’s congressional leaders.

“We’re going to continue to work with Senator Lisa Murkowski and Senator Dan Sullivan’s offices to try to make sure the National Marine Fisheries services – there’s a couple of specific asks we’re going to pursue – to basically make sure that the agency follows through with the spirit of this resolution and the work that our congressional delegation is doing,” Kreiss-Tomkins said.

Alaska’s fisheries generate approximately $4.5 billion a year.

Speaking with KCAW over the phone, Kreiss-Tomkins had good news for Sitka’s habor infrastructure.

Both the Senate and the House have carved out $5 million in their capital budgets for Phase 1 of replacing Sitka’s Crescent Harbor. The House’s version of the budget also includes $1.5 million for electrical upgrades to Eliason Harbor.

“It’s not in the Senate budget, so it’s subject to negotiation. But I am cautiously optimistic that we’ll prevail,” Kreiss-Tomkins said.

Both harbors are included in the City of Sitka’s list of legislative priorities for this year.

Kreiss-Tomkins also received word that there’s intent language in the operating budget, requiring VPSO firefighter training to remain in Sitka.

“I’m concerned about the Trooper Academy being nibbled away piece by piece and this intent language will forestall any such efforts,” Kreiss-Tomkins said.

There was discussion last year about relocated that training to Palmer.

Kreiss-Tomkins expected the state legislature would finalize passage of the budget within a week. As for education funding, he said there was a chance for a modest funding boost that would impact the base student allocation (BSA).