Legislature(2003 - 2004)
04/29/2003 01:46 PM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE BILL NO. 210 "An Act relating to the Chitina dip net fishery; and providing for an effective date." RYNNIEVA MOSS, STAFF, REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL provided information about the bill. She noted that a bill in the last legislative session would have extended the $25 permit for Chitina dipnetting and then phased it out. She read from minutes of the Senate Resources Committee in that year, when Senator Wilkins stated that his intent was to have an accessible, productive and safe fishery, and that he could support a continuation of the fee knowing that it would end in the following year, passing administration along to the State and [Native] Corporations. She noted that since then, there had been a survey of lands in the Chitina River area. Ms. Moss referred to a map outlining the area referred to in the bill, indicating both public and private lands. She stated that approximately 60 percent of the lands were public access. She noted that the survey indicated a monument every 2/10 mile and explained that $50 thousand remained of the survey monies to produce a brochure for anyone applying a permit, indicating public and private land. The bill does not eliminate the permit process, but only the $25 fee. Ms. Moss addressed the fiscal note, which indicated a loss of $170 thousand in revenues. She explained how the Department used this funding, and noted that the original note indicated a $181 thousand loss. The trespass fees paid to native corporations totaled $130,536; the site maintenance totaled another $36 thousand. She concluded that the Department was actually losing only $2 per permit, less the cost of printing the permits, which totaled $3,600. She pointed out that the bill presented no major loss to the general fund. Ms. Moss explained that in the Spring the Fish Board changed the classification of fishing in Chitina from subsistence to "personal use", which would require a $15 sport fishing license, above the fish netting permit. Estimates indicate that ten percent of fishers were now required to purchase sports fishing licenses and that under the bill, providing $11 thousand additional revenue to the State. She also noted estimates that a potential of 3,000 additional licenses would be purchased, totaling $45 thousand in new revenue. She indicated that this revenue could support the maintenance issue surrounding the bill. She stated that Representative Coghill believes that the funding should be found through other efficiencies and treated as an existing maintenance expense. She pointed out that the Chitina dipnetters were the only fisheries in the state of Alaska that was paying for permits. Representative Chenault asked if Chitina dipnetting was the only fishery to subsidize waste disposal through a fee. Ms. Moss confirmed that this was true, but added that the Kenai dipnetting area had a municipal charge for waste disposal. In response to a question by Representative Chenault, Ms. Moss replied that the benefit did not go to the fishers themselves. Co-Chair Harris asked if Atna [Native Corporation] land was used to access the river. Ms. Moss stated that the brochure would clearly detail public and private access, so that there would be no reason to use private property to access the river. In response to a question by Co-Chair Harris, Ms. Moss confirmed that the only action was to eliminate the fee. Representative Croft referred to the fiscal note, and observed an average of 7,000 people to whom a fee of $25 was charged generated approximately $180 thousand in revenue that the State would no longer be received. Ms. Moss noted that all of the $2 per permit was being directed to services other than the Department of Fish and Game. Representative Croft observed that the fee went to pay for the agreement with Atna. To use their private lands for access and asked if the sponsor proposed that the access would no longer be paid for or available. Ms. Moss confirmed that this was correct and added that the State would no longer pay for waste management in the area. Co-Chair Harris asked if outdoor plumbing would still be maintained, since this was a popular fishing area in the State. Ms. Moss responded that this issue was still under consideration and that separate legislation was being worked on to address the issue. She added Representative Coghill's belief that the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and the Department of Fish and Game should collaborate to equitably address this issue. She noted that their office was communicating with various agencies and organizations to resolve the problem. Representative Croft concurred with Co-Chair Harris in the concern for locating general funds to provide restroom facilities and other services. He agreed that the fee might be reduced, but maintained that even given a clear brochure, without legal access through private lands, border disputes might arise, in addition to problems with waste disposal if facilities were not available. He suggested that Fish and Game might at least find funding to provide these services. Co-Chair Williams recalled that the reason the statute was initiated was to prevent crossing of private Native lands. He asked how the Committee might address this. Representative Stoltze observed that there had been a great deal of resources spent in delineating the property lines and access points. Co-Chair Williams recalled that originally there were private property signs on the roadways. Ms. Moss stated that the reason to keep the permit, while eliminating the fee, was to provide information to every person fishing outlining the property lines between state and private land. She noted that trespassers stood the chance of being prosecuted. Representative Stoltze expressed his support of repealing the fee, in that it was inappropriate to provide these services through the use of fees. He maintained that the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities had plenty of opportunity to provide services apart from the permit process. He noted regulatory power to set up charges for use of facilities, and stated that it was not appropriate to charge fees in correlation with the permit process. Ms. Moss noted that at the last hearing the Department of Fish and Game stated that they could use proceeds from sport fishing licenses to provide maintenance of this kind. Representative Joule asked to hear public testimony. Co-Chair Harris asked if they had received any comment from the Native Corporation. Ms. Moss said they had not. The Glennallen Legislative Information Office stated that written testimony from Joseph Hart, General Manager of the Chitina Native Corporation had been faxed (copy on file). Representative Foster pointed out that many areas provide their own maintenance without state assistance just out of pride for their area. He gave the example that in Nome, citizens provided cleanup on a volunteer basis. BYRON HALEY, PRESIDENT OF THE CHITINA DIPNETTER ASSOCIATION, FAIRBANKS, testified via teleconference in support of the bill. He stated that Chitina was the corridor to fishing in the area, and maintained that a $25 fee was no longer necessary. He referred to a letter from the Departments of Natural Resources and Fish and Game in August of 2002, stating that the current yearly compensation process has been difficult and that given the recent survey and other developments, they do not believe that the fee is any longer necessary. He stressed that the private landowner could still choose to charge for access to their property. He strongly encouraged passage of the legislation. DICK BISHOP, FAIRBANKS, testified via teleconference in support of the bill. He expressed thanks to legislators for their work on the bill over the years. He explained that the Chitina Dipnet industry was for personal use and required a sports fishing license as a result of a recent Board of Fisheries decision. He maintained that there should be no need for an additional fee to allow Alaskans to fish for food in that fishery and pointed out that no additional fee was charged for any other personal use fishery in the state. TAPE HFC 03 - 69, Side B Mr. Bishop pointed out that the Native Corporation was free to charge fees for trespass on their lands as they saw fit. Co-Chair Harris referred to a letter faxed from the Chitina Native Corporation concerning trespass and cutting down trees. He asked if there was a way to relieve the concerns of the Native Corporation regarding activity on their lands. He suggested that if the state had clearly delineated access to state lands, there was a way to allay fears about trespassing. Mr. Bishop related a story about an individual who purchased land near a well-used trail, and had not posted private property signs indicating that he did not wish people to trespass. He indicated that the private landowners had the responsibility to convey their wishes through signs and notices, in the hope that most people would respect those wishes. MARK HELM, VICE PRESIDENT, CHITINA DIPNETTERS ASSOCIATION, testified via teleconference in support of the bill. He referred to the map of the surveyed area, sheet 2 of 5, and highlighted Mile Post One. He indicated that there was public access from that point to Milepost 60.62 (GPSO 2). He noted that from Milepost .40 to Milepost 2.21 was the origination of the trespass fee eleven years ago. He pointed out that at that time, public access was not available in this area; the state has now repaired the road, and provided public access. He noted that he has operated a fishing charter for the past twenty years, and maintained that there was little access by the public in this area, and therefore not much trespassing. He stated that most dipnetters fished in the area from Milepost 2.39 down to Haley Creek. He maintained that percentage figures were misleading. He also referred to the last page of the map, and stated that the potential trespass area was actually a dangerous cliff, where no one fished. He proposed that in the current circumstances, the trespass fee was no longer valid. He pointed out that the Native Corporation did not pay to survey the land. PAUL HOLLAND, BOARD MEMBERS OF THE CHITINA DIPNETTERS ASSOCIATION, FAIRBANKS, testified via teleconference in support of the bill. He stated that the majority of dipnet fisherman fished within the right of way. He also noted that the road was closed at the present time, making the issue of trespass moot at this point. JESSE VANDERZANDEN, ALASKA OUTDOOR COUNCIL, testified via teleconference in support of the bill. He stated that, according to the recent survey, at least 60 percent of the area used by dipnetters was public land. He also noted identified public access to the area. He maintained that the trespass fee was no longer valid. He referred to two letters provided as testimony to the House Resources Committee. He quoted from a letter from Governor Tony Knowles to the Chitina Native Corporation, stating "last summer DOT/PF staff completed this legislatively funded survey which showed that at least 60 percent of the right of way between O'Brien and Haley Creek affords legal public access to the Copper River." The letter went on to state that " the results of this survey places the state in the awkward position of collecting fees from a portion of users in the Chitina subsistence fisheries to pay for access that is not needed in order to participate in the fishery". Finally, he read, "ADF&G is considering a proposal that would repeal the access fee". He then quoted from the letter by quoted earlier by Mr. Haley. He maintained that the current bill was a win/win situation for both public access fishers and private landowners. He noted that private landowners benefited from information provided to the public by state agencies on the delineation of their lands. He emphasized that private landowners could choose to charge fees for trespass. He also stressed that the Department of Fish and Game should not be responsible for trash and waste removal contracts. He submitted that discussion about cleanup should not be a legislative issue but rather a regulatory one. HB 210 was heard and HELD in Committee for further consideration.