Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich today co-sponsored an amendment (attached) to S. 1813, the Surface Transportation Bill that would keep Alaska's federally recognized tribes from being disproportionately harmed through a funding formula change to the Indian Reservation Roads (IRR) program. The Senators also proposed to restore "High Priority Projects' funds that totaled $14 million last year in rural Alaska.
The new formula proposed in the bill would funnel the existing pool of IRR funds to higher population areas in the Lower 48 and already-established paved roads -- changing the existing method that was developed through negotiations among all regions. The proposed formula did not take input from affected tribes.
"Where tribes in the Lower 48 are often focused on maintaining or adding to the public roads they already have, the Alaska Native community is merely trying to start the process. We're not trying to upgrade for the 21st Century, we're trying to enter the 20th," said Murkowski. "The formula's very purpose was "to balance the interests of all tribes and enable all tribes' access to road funding, but this proposed legislation tilts the equation off-balance, away from 229 Alaska Native Tribes."
"Alaska's Native communities deserve their fair share of funding," Sen. Begich said. "In many cases these dollars pay for essentials like improving a community's barge landing or running a basic road to the airstrip. It's often about public safety, or giving local residents better access to fish and wildlife resources."