Washington, D.C. – Alaska Congressman Don Young today applauded the passage of H.R. 4188, the Coast Guard Authorization of 2015, calling it a victory for Alaska’s mariners, fishermen and Coast Guard family. The bicameral, bipartisan legislation represents months of negotiations between the House and Senate, and includes long sought reforms to protect the Coast Guard’s vital mission of defending our oceans and waterways. Young, a senior member of the House Coast Guard Subcommittee, proudly worked to secure numerous Alaskan focused provisions in the bill, including three separate land transfers to state and local interests.
Congressman Young on the Passage of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015 (click here to watch).
“After months of negotiations, I’m pleased to send a bipartisan bill to the President that strengthens our Coast Guard’s mission and secures the safety of our oceans and coastlines,” said Congressman Don Young. “The many provisions advanced today will better serve the Coast Guard’s unique mission, bring us closer to updating our aging fleet of icebreakers, reduce the governments growing footprint of federal lands, and eliminate a series of overbearing rules and regulations placed upon our fishermen and mariners. This is an important step forward for our Coast Guard and the nation, and I commend the work of all those on involved.”
Three stand alone bills introduced by Congressman Young will become law under H.R. 4188:
- H.R. 2038, the Tok Land Transfer, will authorize the conveyance of U.S. Coast Guard housing facilities in Tok, Alaska to the Tanana Chiefs’ Conference to ensure the continuation of the region’s only behavioral health clinic.
- H.R.2284, the Point Spencer Land Conveyance Act, will convey 2,500 acres of federal lands to the Bering Straits Native Corporation, State of Alaska, and United States Coast Guard to streamline future infrastructure development and potential uses of Point Spencer.
- H.R.325, the Pribilof Islands Transitions Act of 2015, authorizes the Department of Commerce to transfer or exchange Pribilof Islands lands to the village corporations of Saint Paul and Saint George Islands, and giving those village corporations the first priority right to acquire that land on their respective islands.
Along with Senator Dan Sullivan, who serves on the Senate’s Coast Guard Subcommittee, Congressman Young worked to secure the following language:
Fishing Vessel Classification:
Language secured by Congressman Young to create an alternative vessel classification compliance program for the construction of new fishing vessels and fishing tenders from 50 to 79 feet in length.
- Since coming into effect, new classification rules have caused uncertainty in classification costs, which has had negatively impacted the construction of newer, safer fishing vessels. Through alternative compliance, safety can be achieved without arbitrarily expensive requirements.
Language supported by Congressman Don Young to advance the nation’s icebreaking fleet was included in H.R 4188.
- The language requires a determination on the feasibility of refurbishing the USCG POLAR SEA by the USCG within 1 year of enactment.
- Authorizes $4 million in FY 2016, and $10 million FY 2017 for a feasibility study, specification development, and any other pre-acquisition activities necessary for procuring a polar icebreaker.
- Enlists the National Academy of Sciences to do an in depth cost comparison of various options to meet our immediate icebreaking needs.
- Authorizes the Coast Guard to contract for the acquisition of a polar icebreaker using incremental funding. Incremental funding has been used by the U.S. Navy to reduce the overall impact on the service’s budget during large vessel acquisition. The Coast Guard’s acquisitions budget of approximately $1 billion would not have the capability to simultaneously support current recapitalization efforts and an icebreaker that may cost nearly $1 billion.
Specifically, the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015 would:
- Authorize the Coast Guard for Fiscal Year 2016 and 2017 at currently authorized levels, ensuring the Service has the resources it needs to successfully conduct its critical missions.
- Alleviate administrative burdens on mariners by requiring the Coast Guard to harmonize the expiration of merchant mariner credentials, radar observer endorsements, and medical certificates.
- Require the Coast Guard to certify local physicians to make medical fitness determinations of merchant mariners.
- Bolster shipyards and mariners by requiring the implementation of a program to promote the transportation of LNG on U.S. flag vessels, using U.S. mariners.
- Ensure Coast Guard officers and enlisted service members receive access to the same benefits as their counterparts in the Department of Defense.