Legislature(2017 - 2018)HOUSE FINANCE 519
03/13/2017 01:30 PM FINANCE
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|HB90HOUSE BILL NO. 90|
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE BILL NO. 6 "An Act establishing the Jonesville Public Use Area." 3:10:36 PM DARRELL BREESE, STAFF, REPRESENTATIVE GEORGE RAUSCHER, explained the legislation. He reported that the area was north of Sutton and was historically a coal mining area from 1919 to 1977. The bill would establish the 11 thousand-acre Jonesville Public Use Area and maintain its popular recreational opportunities for Alaskans. The bill would protect, maintain, enhance, and perpetuate the present use of the area for year-round public recreation, migratory waterfowl nesting areas and habitats for fish and wildlife, and other uses. He noted that along with the popular uses negative activities were happening in the unmanaged area. Burning cars, illegal activity, and gunfire causing stray bullets were reoccurring events. He shared that a death had taken place in the area in the prior year. The people of the Sutton Community Council coined the phrase "Mad Max Theater" to describe the activities in the area. The Sutton Community Council and the Chickaloon Tribe had worked to remove thousands of pounds of garbage and abandoned vehicles from the area. The groups had worked to develop a compromise for the land use by creating the Public Use Area (PUA). The area would allow for all the proper uses of the area that included hiking, biking, camping, ATV use, etc. He noted that a petition was included in the committee member's packets ["A Petition Regarding Jonesville\Slipper Lake Area" (copy on file)]. The goal was to move forward to create a safe recreation area. Representative Wilson wondered why an agreement could not be made between the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Mat-Su. Mr. Breese deferred the question to the department. 3:15:06 PM BRENT GOODRUM, DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF MINING, LAND AND WATER, DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES (via teleconference), replied that by establishing an area merely through an agreement the department would not be able to adopt regulations for enforcement. The legislation authorized DNR to adopt and enforce restrictions that curtailed undesirable activities. Representative Wilson referred to the DNR fiscal note, FN 4 (DNR). She read from the analysis: The department would need to develop the management plan with existing staff resources. Representative Wilson noted that the analysis further stated that was unlikely to happen due to costs. She understood that the Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su) Borough would undertake the obligation. The fiscal notes were zero, consequently, DNR lacked funding for writing the management plan and regulations, enforcement, or policing. She wondered what the current benefits of the bill was without funding attached. She surmised that the Borough could write the management plan. Mr. Goodrum answered the department would work closely with other local partners to enlist help. He indicated that DNR had the ability to develop plans, but the current workload and queue of projects ahead of Jonesville PUA was long. Representative Wilson requested more information regarding the Knik River Public Use Area. She cited the fiscal note analysis stating that enforcement regulation would be similar to the Knik River PUA. She believed that the Mat-Su did not want a lot of government regulation. Mr. Breese answered that the Knik River PUA was in the Mat-Su Borough and the regulations would be similar. He related that the community would be accepting of similar regulations. He reiterated that it was necessary to establish the PUA to begin work on the management plan. Co-Chair Seaton pointed to a document [unknown] in the bill packet that referred to the ability of the Commissioner of DNR to appoint one of the department's employees or other individual as a Peace Officer for the PUA. He asked what was envisioned as the work of the Peace Officer. Mr. Goodrum answered that DNR had a rigorous training program for its employees that resulted in a Peace Officer certification. Many Peace Officers were operating in the Knik River PUA. In addition, state troopers had the authority to enforce DNR regulations. Co-Chair Seaton remarked that currently the Department of Revenue (DOR) and Department of Public Safety (DPS) entered into a joint agreement and transferred authority to 8 DOR enforcement officers to carry firearms. He asked whether DNR program was similar. Mr. Goodrum replied that the department had certain park rangers who were able to carry weapons. He was not aware of public use area peace officers carrying weapons. He reported that the peace officers were trained to interact with and educate the public regarding the regulations. Co-Chair Seaton requested a memo from the department about its intentions related to firearms and peace officers for the PUA. 3:23:20 PM Representative Kawasaki referred to the first paragraph of DNR's fiscal note analysis that mentioned the long queue of other projects ahead of the Jonesville PUA. He asked for clarification. He wanted the legislation to accomplish something. Mr. Goodrum answered that the challenge was the amount of work and the number of current staff. He explained that the reason the fiscal note was zero was that the project was far off in the queue. He reiterated that DNR was looking for other local partners to help with development with the plan. Co-Chair Seaton asked whether nothing will happen until 2023. Mr. Goodrum replied in the affirmative. Representative Kawasaki looked at the fiscal notes from the establishment of the Knik River PUA in 2006. He noted the initial cost of roughly $400 thousand. He believed that costs would be associated with the development of Jonesville PUA. He wondered about the cost of enforcement related to Knik River Public Use Area and observed that the fiscal note cited a Reimbursable Services Agreement (RSA) for enforcement. Mr. Goodrum answered that in the FY 17 budget, $125,000 had been allocated to the troopers for enforcement. Representative Guttenberg asked about the difference between a PUA and multi-use recreational area. Mr. Goodrum replied that a PUA allowed DNR to establish enforcement for the area. A multi-use area was general state land. Co-Chair Seaton noted that Representatives George Rauscher and Geran Tarr had joined the audience. Representative Guttenberg asked whether a trooper or law enforcement officer was required and who paid for it. Mr. Goodrum replied that due to enforcement regulations and associated bail fees for PUA areas, and resources available to compensate state troopers, the troopers enforced PUAs. He added that on general state land it was less likely to obtain trooper support due to the size of the state. 3:29:48 PM Representative Guttenberg stated that for years he had tried to establish a recreational area. He reported that he was unable to dissuade the State Parks to back off on providing an armed officer, even though the public did not want one. Representative Wilson inquired whether the Mat-Su and DNR could enter into an agreement granting Mat-Su the responsibility for developing the management plan to eliminate DNR's funding needs. REPRESENTATIVE GEORGE RAUSCHER, SPONSOR, answered that the Mat-Su Borough strongly supported the bill. He referred to a letter from the Mat-Su Borough planning department (copy on file) that strongly supported development of the PUA. He related that the bill development lasted for over one year and involved the borough, public, and all user groups. The borough was thoroughly committed to the project through its completion. He reiterated that the process required that a PUA was established to develop the plan, however DNR did not have to write the plan; only approve it. Co-Chair Seaton noted that public testimony would remain open. HB 6 was HEARD and HELD in committee for further consideration.