With thousands of Alaskan homes still without adequate sewer and water connections, state Sen. Albert Kookesh, D-Angoon, is proposing a new state task force be charged with solving that problem.
Alaska, he said, has people “living in third world conditions” while the state is bringing in billions in oil revenue that was promised would help the state’s citizens live better.
In a public letter Wednesday, Kookesh cited figures from the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Division of Water that showed 6,028 homes and families in the state remain without potable/clean drinking water and safe sanitation and sewer systems.
Kookesh said that the state 40 years ago promised a better quality of life for all Alaskans as it championed the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, but many people remain without minimum needs met.
The state had collected $102 billion in oil revenues between 1977 and 2009, but has spent less than half of one percent of that on rural sewer and water projects.
“Alaska can afford to do more, and I say it has a responsibility and a duty to do more,” Kookesh said in a letter to Gov. Sean Parnell, legislative leader, rural and community leaders and the citizens of Alaska.
Much of what the state spent during that time was for matching grants for federal spending, but additional millions when to urban communities where no matching grant was available.
Kookesh’s letter came the day before Parnell was scheduled to release his 2013 budget proposal. The state senator said that 2012’s budgeted amount of $7,647,226 for village safe water and $21,817,963 for municipal sanitation matching grants was “clearly not enough.”
Kookesh’s rural southeast and Interior districts includes dozens of small communities, many of which struggle to provide those services to their residents.
Kookesh said he was asking Alaskans to provide information about where improvements in water and sewer systems need to be made to his office to get an accurate assessment of the need.
Kookesh said people with information can contact Dorothy Shockley at his Fairbanks office at 888-452-3471, or by email at Dorothy_Shockley@legis.state.ak.us. After the Legislature resumes, she can be contacted in Juneau at 888-288-3473.
• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or firstname.lastname@example.org.