Government shutdown delays salmon disaster relief funding

Rep. Louise Stutes speaks during the crab dinner at the Reluctant Fisherman on Saturday, March 24, 2018. File photo by Emily Mesner for The Cordova Times

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

It has been a while since my last update and I wanted to keep you up-to-speed on two very important issues, the first of which is the 2016 Gulf of Alaska Pink Salmon Disaster Relief Funding.

Two years into this process I know a lot of you, like myself, are frustrated and wondering what is taking so long. Currently, the state’s portion is complete, and we are simply awaiting a sign-off on the federal level. At my last update, the department was hopeful that NOAA would approve the State’s distribution plan and there would be an application process in place by the first of this year. Unfortunately, in part because of the government shutdown, that timeline did not happen.

I have been reaching out to our congressional delegation and governor’s office to get an updated ETA, as well as encourage NOAA to take action more quickly. I should know more soon and will post an update regarding expected timelines, the specifics of how to apply, etc. in the paper and on Facebook. Please email my fisheries aide, Matt Gruening, at [email protected] if you would like to be added to an email notification list.

I also want to discuss the current organization, or lack thereof, of the State House. As most of you are aware, negotiations to form a majority in the House are still ongoing. I have never minced words and I won’t start now. Here is the situation as I see it as your representative:

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Without additional sources of revenue, the administration’s plan to slash the budget and pay a full PFD will not only fail to fix the deficit, but it will equate to this for coastal residents: less ferry service, fewer commercial fishing opportunities, unplowed roads, reduced public safety, a poor education system, poor airport maintenance, etc.  Additionally, myself and many others in the commercial fishing industry have well-founded concerns about the administration’s focus on sport fishing over commercial fishing. Now, more than ever, it is vital that the House Majority have strong coastal representation at the bargaining table with the governor and the Senate. Our rural Alaskan way of life may very well depend on it.

I have always stated that my priority is the people I represent and not any outside interest. As such, I am unwilling to join a majority whose priorities are counter to those of my constituents. Thankfully, coastal minds think alike. I and nine other coastal legislators have banded together and are reaching out to likeminded members to form a coalition that has the priorities of passing a responsible budget, keeping Alaskans safe, and protecting the Permanent Fund and the Permanent Fund Dividend.

I understand the need to get organized in a timely manner and am disappointed that hasn’t happened yet; however, this is something that is worth taking the time to get right. We need to ensure that we have a functional majority that will not only protect coastal Alaskan communities and critical services for all Alaskans, but also one that can work effectively together to move our state forward. I am hopeful that we will have an organization in place soon that is able to accomplish that.

Please remain patient and I will update you as soon as I know more. Remember, I work for you, so please do not hesitate to reach out to me with your thoughts on this issue.

Sincerely,

Louise Stutes

State House Representative for District 32, proudly Serving Kodiak, Cordova, Yakutat and Seldovia. Contact her at [email protected] or (907) 465-2487. Follow her at facebook.com/RepLouiseStutes and twitter.com/RepLouiseStutes.

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