Legislature(2001 - 2002)

02/05/2001 05:02 PM FSH

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 61- HABITAT RESTORATION/ENHANCEMENT GRANTS                                                                                 
CO-CHAIR WILSON announced that the  first order of business would                                                               
be HOUSE  BILL NO.  61, "An Act  authorizing the  commissioner of                                                               
fish  and  game  to  award  grants  for  habitat  restoration  or                                                               
enhancement projects; and providing for an effective date."                                                                     
CO-CHAIR  WILSON  stated that  House  Bill  61 was  requested  by                                                               
Governor Tony Knowles.                                                                                                          
Number 0182                                                                                                                     
KEN TAYLOR,  Director, Division of Habitat  & Restoration, Alaska                                                               
Department of  Fish &  Game (ADF&G), explained  that HB  61 would                                                               
authorize  the  commissioner  to   have  granting  authority  for                                                               
federal funds  for habitat and  restoration projects.   This same                                                               
bill passed the  House last session.  However, it  was passed too                                                               
late to get final approval and consensus from the Senate.                                                                       
MR. TAYLOR said the primary  reason the department is looking for                                                               
this granting authority  is that the department has  had a number                                                               
of restoration  projects throughout  the state. They  worked with                                                               
municipalities and private interests,  particularly, on the Kenai                                                               
River.    Since 1995,  the  department  has had  180  restoration                                                               
projects granted and 170 completed  on the Kenai River.  However,                                                               
in order to  do this work on the Kenai  River, the department has                                                               
had to  take funds  that were available  through the  EVOS [Exxon                                                               
Valdez Oil  Spill] Settlement Funds  and funds from  CIP [Capital                                                               
Improvement Projects], passed by the  legislature in 1995.  These                                                               
funds were passed through the  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and                                                               
then back out  to the public.   In doing this, the  U.S. Fish and                                                               
Wildlife Service  receives an 11  percent administrative  fee for                                                               
work   that   actually   duplicates   all   of   the   division's                                                               
administrative work.  In short,  it is a very inefficient process                                                               
for handling these funds.   The division [Division of Habitat and                                                               
Restoration] feels  that this  process would  be done  better and                                                               
more effectively if it [transferring  of funds] was done directly                                                               
to the individuals involved.                                                                                                    
MR. TAYLOR  said that HB  61 is  restricted to federal  funds for                                                               
granting authority.  It is  further restricted to exclude Pitman-                                                               
Robertson Funds,  Dingle-Johnson Funds, and  Wallop-Breaux Funds,                                                               
which are  standard federal  funds that  the ADF&G  receives from                                                               
excise taxes  on sporting  equipment.  House  Bill 61  would only                                                               
encompass  federal funds  that "we"  were  successful in  getting                                                               
Congress to appropriate for this type of an activity.                                                                           
MR.TAYLOR remarked  that due to salmon  restoration activities in                                                               
Washington  and  Oregon, there  is  a  strong national  focus  to                                                               
restore  salmon  habitat  in  the  Pacific  Northwest.  For  this                                                               
reason,  Congress is  appropriating a  lot of  funding for  these                                                               
types  of  activities.    The department  feels  that  with  this                                                               
authority they  would be  able to engage  in these  programs more                                                               
efficiently than they are now.                                                                                                  
Number 0412                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIR  GARY  STEVENS asked  if  there  was  a state  fee  that                                                               
follows  these funds  when they  are granted  to another  agency,                                                               
municipality, or nonprofit group.                                                                                               
MR. TAYLOR replied that he did  not believe there was a state fee                                                               
on these funds.  He said  typically when money is passed from one                                                               
agency to  another, there is  about a  3 percent overhead  in the                                                               
Division of Habitat and Restoration.                                                                                            
Number 0480                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL stated  that he was not  familiar with the                                                               
scope  of  these  funds (Pittman-Robertson,  Dingle-Johnson,  and                                                               
Wallop-Breaux programs).   He asked  Mr. Taylor to give  him some                                                               
concept of the scope of the programs.                                                                                           
MR.  TAYLOR  explained  that Congress  established  the  Pittman-                                                               
Robertson fund  in 1937,  as an excise  tax on  rifles, shotguns,                                                               
and ammunition.  This fund is  divided among the 50 states and is                                                               
a continuing  appropriation to the 50  states that is based  on a                                                               
formula of state size and  population.  Alaska receives 5 percent                                                               
of  this fund,  which  is the  maximum  of the  Pittman-Robertson                                                               
dollars.  The  Dingle-Johnson Fund was set up in  1950, along the                                                               
same lines as the Pittman-Robertson  fund, but for sport fishing.                                                               
Alaska receives  5 percent of  this excise  tax on items  such as                                                               
fishing rods and tackle.   The Wallop-Breaux fund was established                                                               
[in 1952].   This fund is  derived from additional excise  tax on                                                               
items such as motorboat fuels.                                                                                                  
MR.  TAYLOR   summarized  that  these  funds   are  a  continuing                                                               
appropriation  through  Congress to  the  state.   They  are  the                                                               
backbone of the Division of  Sport Fish and Wildlife Conservation                                                               
federal funding.  For this  reason, these funds are excluded from                                                               
HB  61.   The ADF&G  and the  legislature would  not want  to see                                                               
funds that traditionally go to  those programs [Division of Sport                                                               
Fish and  Division of Wildlife  Conservation] siphoned off  to go                                                               
into something new and different.                                                                                               
Number 0733                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL  asked Mr.  Taylor if there  were specific                                                               
criteria  he anticipates  looking  at when  dealing with  habitat                                                               
restoration grants.                                                                                                             
MR. TAYLOR said it would depend  on the area and what the habitat                                                               
problem was.   On the Kenai River, the department  was looking at                                                               
bank  stabilization  due to  fishing  pressure  along the  river.                                                               
This was the focus of many  grants that were done with the public                                                               
"down  there."   However, in  other areas  such as  Anchor River,                                                               
there is a  problem with ATV [all-terrain  vehicles] crossings on                                                               
the  upper Anchor  River through  salmon  and steelhead  spawning                                                               
grounds where  "we" might want  to put bridges or  something like                                                               
that across.   In short,  criteria would be developed  around the                                                               
problem that was trying to be addressed.                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL stated  that one of his  concerns was that                                                               
HB 61 would  be used to "limit access rather  than to enhance the                                                               
habitat."   He said that  he is  always a "little  cautious about                                                               
giving  grants that's  going  to  limit the  access  to the  very                                                               
people who generally are going to be using it."                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL mentioned  that one  of things  "we" have                                                               
been trying  to do on  the Yukon and  Tanana drainages is  to "do                                                               
weir counts  and try to find  where our habitat really  is in our                                                               
spawning grounds."   He asked Mr. Taylor if these  areas would be                                                               
considered in the grants.                                                                                                       
MR. TAYLOR  reported that the  department has talked  about areas                                                               
along   the  Chena   River  that   would  benefit   from  habitat                                                               
restoration.   But  so far  he has  not heard  "too much"  on the                                                               
Tanana  River.   However,  this  [HB  61]  would be  a  statewide                                                               
program.   In response to Representative  Coghill's first concern                                                               
[HB 61 would  limit access rather then enhance],  the Division of                                                               
Habitat and Restoration runs a  project for "access defense."  It                                                               
is  funded  primarily  by  sports   fish  and  wildlife  dollars.                                                               
However, it  is a  program for  maintaining 17  easements [Alaska                                                               
Easement Act of 1971] and R.S.  2477 [federal statute.]  "We" are                                                             
very  conscious about  protecting  public access.   These  grants                                                               
would not  be used for limiting  public access to any  area.  The                                                               
projects on the  Kenai River are called a 50/50  cost share grant                                                               
where  the applicant  provides 50  percent of  the cost  and "we"                                                               
provide a  grant for  the other  50 percent.   It is  strictly to                                                               
restore his or  her bank along the  river.  It has  nothing to do                                                               
with  access, whether  the person  has allowed  public access  or                                                               
Number 0867                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL  asked what regulations would  be required                                                               
to implement this legislation.                                                                                                  
MR. TAYLOR  answered that currently  [ADF&G] does  not anticipate                                                               
any regulations,  since "we've  been doing  it through  a federal                                                               
agency and we  would simply do it directly."   House Bill 61 does                                                               
provide  the commissioner  authority  to  develop regulations  if                                                               
they are  needed at some  point.   However, he [Mr.  Taylor] does                                                               
not envision any at this time.                                                                                                  
CO-CHAIR STEVENS  remarked that it  "sounds like a great  idea to                                                               
be  more cost-effective."   He  then  asked what  the 11  percent                                                               
(that  has been  going  to  fish and  wildlife)  represents in  a                                                               
dollar amount.                                                                                                                  
MR. TAYLOR said he believed "we've  spent a little over a million                                                               
five."  Therefore, the dollar amount  would be 11 percent of that                                                               
which would be close to $150,000-$160,000.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  STEVENS  remarked  that [Mr.  Taylor's]  feelings                                                               
would be  that whatever  the dollar amount  is would  go directly                                                               
into projects to restore habitat.                                                                                               
MR. TAYLOR confirmed Representative Stevens's statement.                                                                        
SUE  SCHRADER, Alaska  Conservation Alliance/Alaska  Conservation                                                               
Voters  (ACA/ACV), stated  that many  of the  35,0000 members  of                                                               
"our"  member organizations  are hunters,  fishers, and  wildlife                                                               
watchers.  She  said that they are all very  supportive of HB 61.                                                               
The  members   appreciate  the   need  for   habitat  protection,                                                               
restoration, and  improvement. "We" are hoping  that "you" [House                                                               
Special  Committee on  Fisheries] will  join us  and support  the                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL  remarked that he is "learning so much."                                                                 
He  asked if  currently there  are logistical  roadblocks keeping                                                               
"us" from getting money in, or if  HB 61 is just looking at a new                                                               
source for funding to make it [the process] easier.                                                                             
MS. SCHRADER  said she preferred  that the question  be addressed                                                               
to ADF&G.   But,  she said,  "certainly we are  not having  to go                                                               
through U.S.  Fish and Wildlife  Service."  [With House  Bill 61]                                                               
ADF&G  can give  money  directly  to people  who  have won  grant                                                               
awards.   Therefore, it seems  that it "would probably  save some                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL asked  Mr.  Taylor if  there  is a  "good                                                               
logistical reason" for it  [HB 61] or if there is  just a "pot of                                                               
money" that is now available.                                                                                                   
Number 1139                                                                                                                     
MR. TAYLOR said that currently "we"  have one "pot of money" that                                                               
came  to  the governor's  office  last  fiscal year,  called  the                                                               
Southeast Salmon Recovery  Fund.  This was part  of the Southeast                                                               
Salmon  Treaty negotiations.   Congress  appropriated 14  million                                                               
dollars through  this.  But only  a small portion of  that (2-1/2                                                               
million)  is tentatively  set aside  for restoration  activities,                                                               
and that would  be in Southeast Alaska.  Decisions  have not been                                                               
finalized  on exactly  how or  where that  money is  going to  be                                                               
spent.   However, there are  other sources of funding  out there,                                                               
and  there  continue   to  be  new  sources   "cropping  up"  for                                                               
restoration activities.  He said that  "we" would like to be able                                                               
to be in a position to  take advantage of those [funding sources]                                                               
in the most efficient and effective way.                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL  asked Mr.  Taylor  to  explain what  his                                                               
scope of  the enhancement  part in the  grant process  might look                                                               
Number 1253                                                                                                                     
MR. TAYLOR replied that there  are a number of different habitat-                                                               
related issues in Alaska that can  be addressed with this type of                                                               
funding.    He mentioned  that  the  House Special  Committee  on                                                               
Fisheries  would  be  hearing  a   presentation  on  the  Tongass                                                               
Roads/culvert report after  this hearing.  This  will provide the                                                               
committee  with an  idea  of  some of  the  habitat impacts  that                                                               
"aren't all  that obvious to people  in the public but  do affect                                                               
productivity  of salmon  streams."   It  [enhancement] can  range                                                               
from  replacing  culverts  to fixing  stream  banks  or  building                                                               
bridges  across salmon  spawning areas.   In  short, there  are a                                                               
number of different things that could  be done with these type of                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL remarked that there  was a stream going by                                                               
his house that might fit this description.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE DYSON  asked Ms. SCHRADER  if she lived  in Juneau                                                               
and if she was an officer for ACA/ACV.                                                                                          
MS. SCHRADER  answered that  yes, she lived  in Juneau,  and that                                                               
she was an employee of ACA/ACV.                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE DYSON  asked if she  could give  a list of  the 44                                                               
member organizations [within ACA/ACV.]                                                                                          
MS. SCHRADER said she would be happy to supply that information.                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  DYSON  asked  how   many  of  the  35,000  Alaska                                                               
registered  voters  [within  ACA/ACV] have  hunting  and  fishing                                                               
MS. SCHRADER responded  that she is not sure  if that information                                                               
is available but she would check.                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE DYSON asked if any  of the 44 member organizations                                                               
were likely  to bid or  apply to  get the grants  for restoration                                                               
MS.  SCHRADER said  she did  not know.   However,  several member                                                               
organizations  have applied  for  grants from  the Department  of                                                               
Environmental  Conservation  (DEC).   Member  organizations  have                                                               
received funds from DEC in past years.                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE  DYSON   asked  how  much  ACA/ACV   spent  on  or                                                               
contributed to elections last fall.                                                                                             
MS. SCHRADER stated that this  information was recently published                                                               
in an Anchorage  Daily News article.  She was  not able to recall                                                             
specific numbers,  but she  believed that  "better than  half" of                                                               
the  amount that  "we" [ACA/ACV]  did raise  and put  towards the                                                               
November elections  was to predominantly  work on  ballot measure                                                               
Number 1456                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE DYSON remarked that he  was also interested in how                                                               
much ACA/ACV spent on individual  legislative campaigns.  He then                                                               
     To   our  co-chairs,   who  are   both  competent   and                                                                    
     delightful, one of the difficult  things we always have                                                                    
     is figuring  out people to  testify before  us, whether                                                                    
     or not  they have  a "dog  in the  fight," you  know, a                                                                    
     vested interest.  You may  want to, at the beginning of                                                                    
     our session, to ask folks  if indeed they have a vested                                                                    
     interest, and  I think this organization  [ACA/ACV] has                                                                    
     a vested interest in promoting  the conservation of our                                                                    
     natural  renewable and  non-renewable resources,  which                                                                    
     is very admirable.  Thank you.                                                                                             
Number 1568                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE SCALZI made a motion  to move HB 61 from committee                                                               
with individual  recommendations.  There  being no  objection, HB                                                               
61 moved from the House Special Committee on Fisheries.                                                                         

Document Name Date/Time Subjects