KETCHIKAN — U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski has said that President Donald Trump’s “Buy America” plan needs flexibility when it comes to government-funded projects like the move to replace an aging Alaska ferry serving Kodiak, the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands.
Murkowski, a Republican, spoke to reporters Monday and was responding to a recent report by the Juneau Empire that plans for a new oceangoing ferry may be being put at risk by federal policies.
President Donald Trump signed the executive order that included a provision requiring all steel and iron products be produced in the U.S. at every stage of the process — even if there is nowhere in the U.S. to produce those products.
Murkowski said she supports the provision but thinks there needs to be flexibility.
“We want to make sure that we’re doing all that we can to support American manufacturing, American jobs — that’s good, that’s strong, that’s ideal,” Murkowski said. “But let’s not get ourselves down a rabbit path where we cannot have good manufacturing jobs in a place like Ketchikan, Alaska because we have gone through the log book and found out this piece of a widget was made in another country.”
She went on to use Trump Tower in New York as a metaphor for how rigid enforcement of Buy America is unrealistic for plans to replace the ferry and other projects.
The new ferry is intended to replace the Tustumena ferry. It was built in 1964 and for the second time in a decade has been put out of service for an entire summer after drydock workers discovered extensive amounts of steel requiring replacement.
“This is not just the Tustumena project where this is become an issue,” Murkowski said. “This has ramifications and implications across the country.”
She added: “The president knows you can build a nice Trump Tower and make sure you’ve got ‘Made in America’ on it. But that maybe some of the pieces of the towel came from somewhere else.”
It appears that the only way to sidestep the Buy America provision is a waiver from the head of the Federal Highway Administration, but Trump has not yet hired one, the Ketchikan Daily News reports (http://bit.ly/2wPmucF ).
Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities spokesperson Aurah Landau told the Daily News on Monday that the waivers also “require extensive justification and vetting and could take a while.”
Murkowski told the Daily News she would discuss the replacement of the Tustumena with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao on Aug. 23.