EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Highlights Common-Ground WOTUS Strategy, Infrastructure Investment for Alaska
SEATTLE (March 1, 2022) – On Friday February 25, 2022, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox joined U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski in Alaska. Engagements in Anchorage and Wasilla helped spotlight features and characteristics that make Alaska unique. The experience also highlighted the essential nature of water and common-ground approaches to steward vital water resources through strategic policy and infrastructure investment.
“I want to thank Senator Murkowski for inviting me to experience what makes Alaska so special and for her leadership that benefits this state and our nation. I will take these stories, lessons, and experiences back with me,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “Water is essential to healthy people, thriving communities, agricultural production, recreation, and economic development. Today, we discussed how federal, state, and local partnership can make sustained progress and benefit all people.”
Starting in the morning, Assistant Administrator Fox, Senator Murkowski, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jaime Pinkham and others participated in a listening session on “waters of the United States” (WOTUS). This listening session is one mechanism for the agencies to consider the regional variation in implementation of WOTUS, given the diverse water quality and quantity conditions in diverse parts of the United States. EPA and Army are committed to a durable definition of WOTUS that centers implementation to protect public health, the environment, and downstream communities while supporting economic opportunity, agriculture, and other industries that depend on clean water.
“The best way to understand the unique needs of Alaska communities is by coming to our state and speaking directly with Alaskans,” Senator Murkowski said. “I appreciated the opportunity to host Assistant Administrator Fox at a roundtable in Anchorage focused on WOTUS, and to convene a group of Alaskans who spoke to the extreme burden that an expanded rule would impose on our state. As we try to find common ground on a WOTUS definition that works for Alaska, I also welcomed the opportunity to highlight the investments the bipartisan infrastructure bill provides for water and wastewater infrastructure. Administrator Fox will play a key role in ensuring those basic services finally reach communities in need across our state.”
In the afternoon, Assistant Administrator Fox joined Wasilla Mayor Glenda Ledford, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Jason Brune, and staff from Senator Murkowski’s office to tour the Wasilla Wastewater Treatment Plant. This event illustrated the need to invest in our nation’s water systems and the historic investment in water infrastructure through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Alaska will receive $65 million in 2022 State Revolving Fund (SRF) supplemental investment. This is the first of five years of funding through the SRFs, which can be used to make needed upgrades to drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure. In Alaska, funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides a unique opportunity to support communities that lack access to essential water services.
“Alaska’s waters are vast including over 3 million lakes, 900,000 miles of navigable waters, and more wetlands than the lower 48 states combined,” said Alaska DEC Commissioner Jason Brune. “WOTUS has far reaching implications for Alaska and will disproportionately impact our state. We appreciate Assistant Administrator Fox coming here with Senator Murkowski to engage with Alaskans. We also face considerable challenges in providing drinking water and wastewater infrastructure to far reaching cities and villages throughout Alaska and look forward to addressing these issues with the EPA in a collaborative and sustainable manner.”
“I am extremely grateful for the coordination and opportunity the Honorable Senator Murkowski and EPA Assistant Administrator, Radhika Fox, have provided for the City of Wasilla to demonstrate the necessity for advancements as we are continuing to see a high growth trend that is putting increased pressure on our maturing infrastructures throughout our community and state,” said Wasilla Mayor Glenda Ledford.
For more information on WOTUS, visit: www.epa.gov/wotus.
For more information on the water infrastructure investments through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, visit www.epa.gov/infrastructure.