The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

 
 

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

City’s Christmas wish list: new harbor funding

Council plots strategy for tight state and federal dollars

 

Valdez Star photo

Jack Victory, federal lobbyist for the City of Valdez, met with council Monday night.

The Valdez City Council re-upped its contracts with its state and federal lobbyists Monday night, with hopes 2012 will be the year Congress and the state’s legislature cut loose with substantial funding to help Valdez begin construction of a new boat harbor.

Last week, Gov. Sean Parnell released his proposed FY 2013 which included $5 million in state funding for the project.

“Our administration fully appreciates the importance of capital funding for your community,” Parnell said in a letter to Valdez mayor Dave Cobb dated Dec. 15.

However, he also urged city officials to support his budget during the upcoming legislative session, as Parnell’s budget proposal is what its name implies; a proposal.

It is also short of the $12 million requested by city officials earlier this month when the council and city administration met with Rep. Eric Feige and Sen. John Coghill to lay out the city’s legislative priorities in the upcoming legislature.

Federal funding for the project is even less certain, according to Jack Victory, the city’s federal lobbyist from the firm of Capitol Hill Consulting Group.

“DC was a little chaotic, a little dysfunctional,” last year, Victory said in a work session with council Monday night.

Congress authorized $20 million towards a new boat harbor for Valdez, but a tightfisted Congress has not actually allocated the funds.

“They’re treating this as a new start,” Victory said.

“They” in this case is the Congressional appropriations committee which is under a strict mandate to not fund new capital projects under the current fiscal climate in Washington.

It is Victory’s ongoing task to “change the color of the money,” as he put it, so the project can receive the critically needed federal funds.

The Army Corps of Engineers estimated the new harbor to cost just under $50 million in 2009 dollars.

Valdez Star photo

The small boat harbor in Valdez is crowded year round and city officials have been working for over a decade to secure state and federal funding for a second harbor.

The City of Valdez has invested millions in the project over the past decade, with state funding sporadically added to the kitty.

Federal rules require state and local buy-in on harbor projects, and Cobb said Valdez has done its share and more while Congress has not held up its end of the deal.

“We’re holding up our end of the bargain and they’re not,” he said during the meeting.

Victory said the Army Corps has worked to try to change the language of the needed funding request so the federal share can be funded. He also said there is a possibility the Valdez project could receive funding by bundling its request with other ongoing port projects that have received regular federal funding in recent years.

“We hope to be shovel ready by this time next year,” said John Hozey, city manager.

 

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