Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/10/1995 08:17 AM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 93 - DISPOSAL OF LAND ALONG THE DALTON HIGHWAY Number 248 SENATOR MIKE MILLER, PRIME SPONSOR, said last session the legislature passed SB 210 which provided for the reauthorization of existing leases in nodes along the Dalton Highway. He explained SB 93 will allow opening up more areas along the highway for nonresidential disposals. He added the areas are those primarily where there were pipeline camps. He stated the areas include the Yukon River Crossing, Coldfoot, Happy Valley, and Franklin Bluffs. SENATOR MILLER noted there is a proposed amendment. He said the North Slope Borough had concerns in that they had made some land selections in Franklin Bluffs and Happy Valley. This amendment makes it clear that SB 93 would not override their land selections. He noted there has been concerns expressed about development along the road. He stressed the highway is open and people will be traveling the road. He felt unless the state starts putting services along the road, there will be more problems. He noted the department supports SB 93. CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN wondered with the potential improvements, will the liability to the state be increased. SENATOR MILLER replied he did not know. He said SB 93 will help cut down the long stretches of the highway without services. He hoped that since the highway is open, the state can begin securing federal funds to start improving the road. REPRESENTATIVE BARNES asked why the state would have more liability on the Dalton Highway than it has on any other roads. SENATOR MILLER said the state would not. Number 309 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES recalled Senator Miller had talked about development nodes and clarified those nodes are located in subsection (b) (2). SENATOR MILLER stated the Senate Resources Committee also made some changes because the bill passed last year had problems in the language and some of the legal descriptions had to be corrected. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES said he was not concerned about the legal descriptions but what the nodes apply to. SENATOR MILLER replied Mr. Swanson could answer the question. Number 342 DEE HOFFMAN, DIRECTOR OF PLANNING, NORTH SLOPE BOROUGH, testified via teleconference and stated the North Slope Borough does have valid land selections on file for all of Happy Valley and Franklin Bluffs, as well as parcels at Deadhorse. She said the best way to handle any need for development at these nodes would be to convey to the North Slope Borough the lands they have selected. Then the North Slope Borough would be in a position to exercise maximum local control in the growth and development of these nodes. MS. HOFFMAN said the state departments and their respected agencies have not assured the (indiscernible) coordinating the group that they will be able to handle the expected traffic on the Dalton Highway this summer. She noted a couple of newspaper articles, one of which the Department of Transportation & Public Facilities' Commissioner Perkins clearly stated the need for more public participation in the planning and development of the state's transportation system. Another article was in regard to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) seeking funds to help fund outhouses, trash cans, dump stations and other areas of need. MS. HOFFMAN said the (indiscernible) industry expects to bring 125,000 tourists to Deadhorse this summer and noted that only about 12,000 tourists drove the highway in 1994. She felt it would be in the best interest of the state to convey to the North Slope Borough the lands selected and let the borough work closely in the development of a comprehensive land use plan, so that facilities and services could be planned and funded appropriately. She noted the North Slope Borough is currently revising its comprehensive land use plan, which does encompass planning for services and facilities in conjunction with state and federal agencies along the road within borough boundary districts. REPRESENTATIVE IRENE NICHOLIA asked what the North Slope Borough's position is on SB 93. MS. HOFFMAN said the North Slope Borough is in support of the proposed amendment. REPRESENTATIVE NICHOLIA asked if the North Slope Borough supports SB 93. MS. HOFFMAN replied yes. CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN said he can see some real benefit to having the Dalton Highway open and having amenities along it but he can also see some problems. He wondered if this will be any different than any other highway or improvements to a highway and wondered if any unusual problems are foreseen. MR. SWANSON said no. He stressed the road is now open and he is very concerned about providing basic services. He noted currently there is one gas station halfway up the road. He pointed out the department is wanting to provide basic amenities, not hotels every six miles. REPRESENTATIVE NICHOLIA stated her concern regarding SB 93 is the costs to the state. She felt the costs are going to fall into the hands of emergency medical services, public health issues, landfills for the disposal of garbage and additional sewage treatment. MR. SWANSON said the desire is to get private industry to provide some of these basic services so it is not a burden to the state. He noted that currently the state definitely has that burden. He is not convinced it will be possible to get private industry to provide all the needed services but at least the department needs the tools to try and do so. Number 446 REPRESENTATIVE NICHOLIA clarified SB 93 does not authorize payment for emergency medical services, public health issues, landfills for the disposal of garbage and additional sewage treatment. MR. SWANSON said SB 93 allows DNR to issue a lease to private industry to provide those services and private industry could charge the public for doing those things. He stressed currently the entire burden is on the state and partially on BLM. He noted the department is looking for one more opportunity to release some of that burden. REPRESENTATIVE OGAN wondered what happens now if there is an accident, someone breaks down or there is a medical emergency. He asked if it would be feasible to charge a toll to travel the highway to cover some of the costs involved as it will take years to get private development up there. MR. SWANSON said the road is open and the state has to deal with it. He stressed the department is looking for the ability to lease some land to private industry if they desire to provide any of the services needed. REPRESENTATIVE BARNES said with the proposed amendment to SB 93, which allows the North Slope Borough to take some of their land entitlements through selecting some of the land along the highway, it seems the borough would be in a very good position to put in the amenities necessary because it is a part of the state they are very familiar with. She felt SB 93 is a good bill. Number 510 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES asked Mr. Swanson if he had read the letter from Yukon Pacific addressed to Speaker Phillips. MR. SWANSON replied he had not. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES said Yukon Pacific has all the permits in place to build a gas pipeline. In their letter, they are asking the legislature to delay action on SB 93 until the issue of whether or not disposing of the land would be unrealistic, in view of their proposed needs for development and building another pipeline, is addressed. He noted the camps along the highway were put in place to support the construction of the oil pipeline and would be very useful for the staging of the construction of a gas pipeline. He pointed out Yukon Pacific's concern is that the state may eliminate the camps and then another new set of pads would have to be created for construction of the gas line. MR. SWANSON stated the concern of Yukon Pacific is very valid. He said any disposals the DNR does anywhere within the nodes will go through a planning process and would involve Yukon Pacific. Number 539 RANDY MAYO, CHIEF, STEVENS VILLAGE COUNCIL, testified via teleconference and stated the village has many concerns. He noted even before the Dalton Highway was open, there were many problems with vandalism, destruction of private property and the loss of fish and game in a traditional subsistence use area. He said in the village there is hardly any cash economy except welfare payments. He stressed the village opposes SB 93 for several reasons including cultural, spiritual, and economical. MR. MAYO felt many bills in the legislature are submitted by business people who live in urban areas. He said the village does not see how SB 93 will benefit the local surrounding communities. He stated many existing problems such as law enforcement, trash along the road, etc., have not even been resolved, yet it is proposed to build up more. He noted it had been mentioned that the private sector would possibly provide some of these services and he wondered if they will be required to build landfills, etc., up to the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Environmental Protection Agency standards. He questioned if the costs involved would be too much for the private sector. He also wondered what Alyeska's position is on SB 93. REPRESENTATIVE BARNES recalled that Mr. Mayo spoke of his concerns as they relate to the subsistence lifestyle along the Dalton Highway but he also mentioned that the only cash available is in the form of welfare payments. She wondered if SB 93 will help the village corporation get some of the land to put in some sort of services and help provide a source of cash for the people in the village to get them off of welfare. Number 604 MR. MAYO said he is not on the village corporation board but noted the village does operate a fish camp tour and has a couple of tour boats. He noted even with those operations, the village has had problems. REPRESENTATIVE BARNES thought if the road was in better condition and had better amenities for the driving public, the village would be able to have more tourists at the fish camp. GEORGE YASKA, DIRECTOR OF WILDLIFE, TANANA CHIEFS CONFERENCE (TCC), testified via teleconference and stated he is not familiar with the amendment discussed earlier. TERESA SAGER, LEGISLATIVE ASSISTANT, SENATOR MIKE MILLER, said the amendment would clarify that the lands selected by the North Slope Borough, as part of their land entitlement but which have not yet been conveyed, would not be affected by SB 93 once the conveyance occurs. MR. YASKA said currently TCC supports SB 93. TAPE 95-48, SIDE A Number 000 CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN read the amendment to Mr. Yaska. MR. YASKA clarified the municipality referred to in the amendment would be in the North Slope Borough. CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN answered probably but not necessarily. MR. YASKA reiterated TCC supports SB 93 but noted TCC still has concerns about the large number of people going up the Dalton Highway and the too few services offered. Number 058 SARA HANNAN, REPRESENTATIVE, ALASKA ENVIRONMENTAL LOBBY, INC. (AEL), urged committee members to oppose SB 93. She said what needs to be considered is long-range economic and fiscal obligations to the state. She agreed the Dalton Highway requires additional services to be available and the state has an obligation to provide some services because it is a state-owned highway, open to public access. She noted the Trans-Alaska Gas Pipeline working committee and the AEL have been talking a lot about the Dalton Highway over the past few years and share many concerns from different perspectives. MS. HANNAN said the Dalton Highway development corridor was originally built as an industrial road. She stressed it still is an industrial road and is not up to the standards of a highway found anywhere else. She stated the problem with opening the highway has been that more people use it and the obligation and liability the state has in regard to the highway is increasing. She noted the more services available, the higher the liability the state has to the people who have private property along the highway. She pointed out that the various problems in regard to the highway are not adequately being addressed. MS. HANNAN noted the Anchorage Daily News did an interview with the new commissioner of the Department of Transportation & Public Facilities and he indicated that currently the Dalton Highway's maintenance plan will not change. She said ongoing fiscal obligations to the state accelerate when there is private development. She stressed the AEL is not opposed to services being provided along the highway but feels it is premature for the state to dispose of those lands and discuss putting private Alaskans out there, with their resources invested in capital investment, unless the state is able to provide the services a property owner should have. MS. HANNAN stated in addition to being able to protect private property and enforce the laws the state currently has, the state will have some additional obligations. When there is someone living on a remote site and six children live there, the state has a legal obligation to provide education. She reiterated there is a need to look at the long-range development plan for the Dalton Highway including the long-range use of it by Yukon Pacific, the long-range fiscal obligations of the state to protect the private property currently there, and what will be done with emergency services and troopers. She stressed the state does not have the money to put more private property holders with private property investment in a remote area when the state cannot protect it. SAM KITO, LEGISLATIVE LIAISON, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION & PUBLIC FACILITIES, said the department feels having amenities along the highway would be in the best interest of the state. REPRESENTATIVE BARNES clarified that in other areas of the state which have rural highways such as the Dalton Highway, the amenities are usually closed down in the winter so there is not the likelihood of having to provide additional schools, etc., along the highway. She said if this land was selected by Native corporations, schools are already provided in the villages where the children and adults live. MR. KITO stated Coldfoot is a work camp leased to a private entity. He said that work camp is more staffed in the summer than in the winter. He noted there are no children there requiring schooling in the winter. He pointed out it is the DNR's intent to dispose land in a similar situation and not create a year-round or permanent living situation. Number 220 REPRESENTATIVE NICHOLIA asked why there was no fiscal note from the Department of Transportation & Public Facilities. She noted parts of the Dalton Highway washes out every year. MR. KITO stated the department is not anticipating any additional need for maintenance. He said at this point, the department cannot anticipate what the volume of traffic increase will be because of the full opening. He explained the department is projecting it can get by with its current level of maintenance and rehabilitation of the roadway. REPRESENTATIVE NICHOLIA asked when the road washes out, who is responsible for putting the road back in place, the state or Alyeska. MR. KITO replied the road is maintained by the state in agreement with Alyeska Pipeline. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES felt if more services are provided along the highway, it follows that there will be more traffic. MR. KITO said the DNR's contingency is it is not known what the level of services will be and they would like to be able to provide for services if the demand increases on the highway. He stated the allowing of the disposal of this land does not necessarily mean the land will automatically be leased to private land owners. He noted there is a BLM plan for the corridor in place and the DNR has been working with the BLM on creating the amenities. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES clarified the purpose of SB 93 is to improve the amenities along the Dalton Highway. MR. KITO replied the purpose of SB 93 is to allow for amenities should they become necessary. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES said a reasonable person would conclude that if the state enters into a program of disposing land for the purpose of providing amenities along the highway that is what will happen eventually. He asked if the amenities get built and there is an increase in traffic as a result, would it not follow that there would be a demand to improve the maintenance on the highway. MR. KITO replied there probably will be an increased demand for maintenance and rehabilitation of the highway. He noted the department is in the beginning stages of providing for rehabilitation of the highway from milepost zero up to Coldfoot and beyond that as funding is available through the federal highway administration on the state's highways program. Number 289 REPRESENTATIVE BARNES stated the Dalton Highway was transferred from Alyeska to the state of Alaska in the early 1980s. Since that time, the state has had an absolute responsibility to maintain the road. She said the state has not always done the kind of job it should have and consequently there have been tremendous washouts, the base has blown away, etc. She pointed out whether or not the state disposes of this land, the work is going to have to be done, because the Dalton Highway is the lifeline to the state's oil patch. She felt whether or not there are 100 tourists driving the road is irrelevant. She noted by doing it through SB 93, the state is able to garner more federal funds to help with the upkeep of the road which is the lifeline of Alaska. She reiterated the state's responsibility for the road has been there since the early 1980s. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES agreed but felt the responsibility to maintain the highway is tempered by the state's fiscal abilities and added that maintaining the highway for the purpose of an industrial road is adequate for the purpose of the lifeline for the state but is not adequate for a tourism resource. He said if the state is going to improve amenities and take actions resulting in additional people traveling the highway, the state should expect demands to improve the road to a higher standard than what is required by the truckers and industry. He pointed out that will cost money. He thought the suggestion earlier about charging a toll to help with that incremental demand should be considered. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES noted he is not opposed to providing more amenities and encouraging more traffic but is concerned that the state needs to be more realistic about what the fiscal impacts will be. REPRESENTATIVE BARNES made a MOTION to AMEND CSSB 93(RES) on page 4, after line 12: Insert a new bill section to read: "*Sec. 2. AS 19.40.200 is amended by adding a new subsection to read: (e) Notwithstanding (b) of this section, land described in (b) of this section is not available for disposal if it has been selected by a municipality to satisfy a general grant land entitlement under AS 29.65 unless the selection is disapproved by the state in a final decision." Renumber the following bill section accordingly. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES OBJECTED for discussion purposes. REPRESENTATIVE NICHOLIA said municipalities are concerned about their Native allotment selections. She wondered how a single person having a Native allotment would be affected. MR. SWANSON replied there are no Native allotments along the highway affected by SB 93. He said the only issue being dealt with are selections made by the North Slope Borough and those will be adjudicated prior to any other activity. REPRESENTATIVE NICHOLIA clarified there are no other Native allotment applicants other than the North Slope Borough. MR. SWANSON responded that is correct. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES wondered if a regional corporation qualifies as a municipality and also asked whether or not there are any regional corporation claims. MR. SWANSON said no. He noted there is a lot of federal land but SB 93 only affects land the state owns. He stated if there is a conflicting claim by a village or regional corporation, or Native allotment, that would have a preference over the state selections. REPRESENTATIVE OGAN wondered if the amendment affects Yukon Pacific's ability to set up their pipeline operation. MR. SWANSON replied no. He reiterated before the disposal of land, the department has to go through a planning process and Yukon Pacific would be very much involved. He noted the department currently has a task force dealing with all of the land selections up there. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES WITHDREW his objection. CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN asked if there were any other objections. Hearing none, the MOTION PASSED. CO-CHAIRMAN GREEN announced SB 93 would be heard again on Wednesday and noted HB 258 would be heard on Wednesday.