Interior Department offers fix-up funds for ANWR drilling zone

WASHINGTON — The Interior Department announced $4 million in funding on Thursday to improve infrastructure in the oil-ready area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The Interior Department is in the early stages of efforts to open up ANWR's so-called "1002" area, on the coastal plain, to oil drilling and offer leases to drilling companies. Alaska's congressional delegation managed to include a provision opening the 1002 area to drilling in last year's tax legislation.

[Companies' first step toward drilling for oil in ANWR deemed inadequate by feds]

The lump sum is part of $5.861 million that Interior approved for 10 Fish and Wildlife Service infrastructure projects in Alaska. The funds will "allow for improvements to existing facilities and construction of outbuildings to support heightened levels of activity," the department said in a statement.

Another $1.5 million of the funds will be used on trail and public access projects in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Other projects run in the $100,000 range.

The Alaska plans are among $50 million in projects that the Fish and Wildlife Service will undertake this year.

"The president is a builder, he loves to build and he loves our public lands, so it is a natural fit that the Trump administration is dedicating so much attention to rebuilding our aging Fish and Wildlife Service infrastructure," Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a written statement.

Erica Martinson

Erica Martinson is a former reporter for the Anchorage Daily News based in Washington, D.C.