Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/18/1996 02:20 PM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE BILL 91 "An Act amending the area within designated marine park units of the Alaska state park system, and adding marine park units to the Alaska state park system." REPRESENTATIVE CAREN ROBINSON spoke in support of HB 91 which would designate 13 islands in the Juneau area as a State Marine Park. The islands included in the parcel are located in Lynn Canal; they are unique because they can all be reached within a few minutes by skiff or by a few hours by kayak. The primary use of the selected lands has been, historically, for recreation purposes. TED MERRELL, MEMBER, PARKS ADVISORY BOARD, JUNEAU, spoke in support of HB 91. He stressed that passage of the legislation would protect the islands for continued recreational use. He noted that more and more water-front areas have become off-limits to the public. Mr. Merrell advised that there is a wide range of public support for the endorsement of the proposal. RON SOMERVILLE, TERRITORIAL SPORTSMAN, JUNEAU, testified in support of HB 91. He stated that the Territorial Sportsman has always lobbied in support of areas within Southeast for public purposes and maintenance for safety purposes. Representative Martin asked if the area should become a marine park, would only guided persons be able to access the islands. Mr. Somerville stated that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has the authority to restrict accesses to State lands. To date, the Marine Parks have not excluded public use to the areas. NANCY WATERMAN, MEMBER OF JUNEAU PARKS AND RECREATION ADVISORY COMMITTEE, JUNEAU, spoke in support of HB 91. Ms. Waterman noted the diverse support of the legislation throughout Juneau and the unanimous endorsement by the citizens committee. She added that the City and Borough of Juneau (CBJ) is currently updating a comprehensive plan for use of the Parks and Recreation department. SUSAN SCHRADER, JUNEAU, noted that Bryon Mallot, member of the State Parks Advisory Board in Juneau, requested the Committee's support of the proposed legislation. Ms. Schrader added that the islands as proposed in HB 91, hold exceptional recreational value for the citizens of CBJ and for the many visitors that come to Alaska and to Juneau. 2 With passage of the legislation, the islands would become another addition to a string of state parks in Southeast Alaska. The legislation would not restrict the use currently happening on the islands. Ms. Schrader urged the Committee's support. MIKE MILLER, JUNEAU, spoke to his long interest in preserving state parks. The concept of HB 91 would be to have a series of islands up and down the coast to be available for Alaskans as well as to provide a vital use for visitors. He stressed that it was important that the sites be designated now, and reiterated that the bill has virtually total support in Juneau. Representative Mulder pointed out a letter of opposition from the Juneau Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Miller was surprised and thought that they were in favor of the bill. Representative Mulder added, there was also a letter from Alaska Travel Adventures in opposition to the bill. Representative Mulder asked if there was anything prohibiting the use of the islands at this time. Mr. Miller stated that there was not, although, there is nothing prohibiting trashing and bad use of the islands. Designation of the islands would provide for their protection. The bill would prohibit inappropriate use of the lands. Representative Mulder spoke to the existing islands already included in the park. He asked if consideration had been given to development of additional boat access and ramps to the islands; he asked if the Park Department had spent additional money on the islands. Mr. Miller did not think that additional funds had been spent. He pointed out that little or no development has taken place because the money has not been available. He stressed that it was the goal to keep the sites as natural as possible. Representative Mulder asked if Juneau had completed it's land use selection. He suggested if that process had been completed, CBJ could make application to do a line trade. Representative Mulder emphasized that it was not in the "best interest" of Juneau or the State to take "potential" property tax land "off" the rolls. He foresaw a multiple use of the islands to generate property taxes in the future. Mr. Miller strongly suggested that the islands not be appropriated for development. Representative Grussendorf stressed that the City and Borough of Juneau has placed a lot of land for sale in the area. He pointed out that the CBJ Assembly has made and supports the request for HB 91. CBJ recommends that the 3 land be used for recreational purposes. BOB JANES, GASTINEAU GUIDING COMPANY, JUNEAU, spoke in support of HB 91. He pointed out that his company has taken tourist to the Channel Island area without permit regulations or fees because they exist in State land status. Mr. Janes stressed that the future demand for use of the area will increase, and by placing it in the State park jurisdiction would protect it. He added that it would be best for his business and the community in the long run to designate the islands to marine park status. Mr. Janes agreed that the islands do have a "high" economic value and he believed that they will support more satellite practices in the future by increasing the CBJ tax base. Tourism is increasing. He urged the Committee's support of the legislation. JIM KING, JUNEAU, spoke in support of the legislation being a person who has used all the islands during his many years in Juneau. He stressed that this is "one of the special things" that Alaskans feel is their privilege living here in Alaska and having recreation and family oriented activities available. He thought that the access would do more for the economy of Juneau than having it on the "tax" rolls. EDDIE GRASSER, ALASKA OUTDOOR COUNCIL (AOC), JUNEAU, testified in support of HB 91. He noted that the Outdoor Council has traditionally supported designation of public lands for specific uses. He echoed comments of the others who had testified. Mr. Grasser requested that the language added on Page 2, Line 6, by the House Resources Committee, be included and add to that "the Board of Game". Mr. Grasser urged the Committee's support of the bill. Representative Mulder asked if the Alaska Outdoor Council would support the upkeep and maintenance of the marine parks. Mr. Grasser replied that would not be possible. Representative Mulder asked where the funds would come from to provide the upkeep. Mr. Grasser suggested that the all visitors who come to Alaska without a hunting, fishing or trapping license be charged a $10 dollar fee to use the lands. THERESE SMITH, DIRECTOR, PARKS AND RECREATION, CITY AND BOROUGH OF JUNEAU, JUNEAU, noted that CBJ has passed a resolution in support of the Channel Islands Marine Park. Ms. Smith acknowledged the economic value of such pristine areas. Keeping the islands protected adds a lot to the land value of the surrounding areas. She added, when dealing with recreational use issues, the ability to be able to 4 respond when conflicts occur is different than it would be with State parks. From the recreational use perspective, there is value in having the islands managed by State parks. Representative Robinson added, in 1977, the islands were nominated by the City and Borough of Juneau for state selection from the Tongass National Forest for recreation purposes. In 1989, the State selected the Channel Islands from the federal government under the Alaska Statehood Act. Establishing the lands as a State park would preserve the quality of existing and future recreational usage while allowing an agency to enforce proper usage of the land. All existing lawful usage, including fishing, trapping and hunting are preserved under statute. Only State park management can consolidate water, intertidal and upland uses into a single entity with adequate enforcement authority to protect as well as provide for safe use of these resources. Representative Robinson added that to designate the lands as a State park requires legislative action. Both the City and the State have identified the plan as a priority in the Juneau Coastal Management Plan and the Juneau State Land Plan. A previous bill, introduced during the 1991-92 Legislative session, passed the House only to die in the Senate Rules Committee. She added that it was important to recognize that Juneau has a long and consistent history of using volunteers to manage park lands. Park maintenance would be overseen by the Division of Parks using Juneaus' many volunteer organizations as a labor base. Representative Robinson urged the Committee's support in passage of the legislation. Representative Robinson referenced Representative Mulder's comments regarding the letter from the Chamber of Commerce indicating that the letter had been unknowingly released by one employee. She stated that the Chamber of Commerce has taken a "neutral" position on the legislation and stressed the broad range of support of the City. WILLIAM GARRY, SUPERINTENDENT, DIVISION OF PARKS & OUTDOOR RECREATION, DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES, noted that the Department and the Administration does support the bill. Mr. Garry offered to answer questions of the Committee. Representative Brown questioned the anticipated level of management and method of payment for that service. Mr. Garry responded that the management level would be small. It would consist of placing signs at the boat ramp; the 5 Department might develop a brochures, and the placing of signs indicating safe places to build fires and removal of trash on the areas most heavily used. In response to Representative Martin, Mr. Garry noted that the Department currently, does monitor the area maybe two times per year for clean-up projects. Discussion followed between Representative Martin and Mr. Garry regarding the site management responsibilities of the islands and costs associated with that. (Tape Change HFC 96-128, Side 2). Representative Mulder grilled Mr. Garry regarding the current State park islands. Mr. Garry noted that only Shelter Island was a State Marine Park in the Juneau area. There are others around Admiralty Island and down Lynn Canal. Representative Mulder asked if the Department had been approached by other tourism groups to provide access to Shelter Island. Mr. Garry stated that the Department had not. In order to provide that service, the existing management framework requires the Department to go through a management plan. There are no preconceived notions as to what would be appropriate. Mr. Garry noted that there is not a management plan for Shelter Island. Representative Mulder asserted that the Department was intentionally locking up the islands for the exclusive use of a very few and that he philosophically disagreed with excluding access and enjoyment of public lands. Mr. Garry replied that there are over six hundred permitted guides in the State parks at this time. He stressed that one of the Departments legislative mandates is to promote tourism and their record strongly indicates that they have followed through with that promotion. Representative Robinson added that 30 thousand citizens in Juneau will be able to use these areas if they remain as parks. Operators believe that going through State parks will assure that the parks will continue to exist. Co-Chair Hanley stated that people currently have access to the islands and that a problem does not exist at this time. There is not an access problem and he noted concern that in the future, there would not be the necessary flexibility for future development. Co-Chair Hanley advised that he would not support placing the land into a park status. Representative Robinson pointed out that as long the lands continue to be under the Department of Natural Resources, the same kind of abilities and power would not exist as there does under the State parks. Abuse has occurred on these islands. She pleaded, in the best interest for the 6 citizens of Juneau, HB 91 be passed from Committee, in as much as it would be the best use of the islands as recreational property. Representative Grussendorf stated that the classification of a marine park would define the parameters of the land. He emphasized that the land would be protected and everyone's best interest would be served that way. Representative Navarre MOVED to report CS HB 91 (RES) out of Committee with individual recommendations and with the accompanying fiscal note. Representative Mulder OBJECTED. A roll call was taken on the MOTION. IN FAVOR: Therriault, Brown, Grussendorf, Navarre. OPPOSED: Kelly, Kohring, Mulder, Parnell, Hanley, Foster. Representative Martin was not present for the vote. The MOTION FAILED (4-6). HB 91 was HELD in Committee for further consideration.