Legislature(2001 - 2002)

02/12/2001 01:30 PM RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB  61 - HABITAT RESTORATION/ENHANCEMENT GRANTS                                                                               
CO-CHAIR MASEK  announced that  the first  order of  business was                                                               
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."                                                                                 
Number 0134                                                                                                                     
KEN TAYLOR,  Director, Habitat  and Restoration  Division, Alaska                                                               
Department of Fish  and Game (ADF&G), explained  that the purpose                                                               
of  HB  61 is  to  provide  the  commissioner of  ADF&G  granting                                                               
authority  for  federal  receipts  for  habitat  and  restoration                                                               
projects  only.    He  emphasized that  the  bill  restricts  the                                                               
commissioner  from  using any  funds  from  federal aid,  Dingle-                                                               
Johnson/Wallop-Breaux or  Pitman Robertson funds.   He  said that                                                               
most  of  the  funds  would  come  from  the  excise  taxes  that                                                               
sportsmen  pay for  hunting  and fishing  sports  equipment.   He                                                               
explained  that  ADF&G is  asking  for  this "limited"  authority                                                               
because  they have  experienced  difficulty in  making grants  to                                                               
private landowners, "particularly on  the Kenai," for restoration                                                               
projects.  He told the House Resources Standing Committee:                                                                      
     Since 1995,  we've had  a 50/50  cost-share restoration                                                                    
     program  with  landowners  along the  Kenai  River,  to                                                                    
     restore  and  stabilize  stream banks  that  have  been                                                                    
     trampled by a  lot of fishing use. In  order to conduct                                                                    
     this program,  we've had to  take the funding  that was                                                                    
     appropriated  by  the  legislature  through  [SB  183],                                                                    
     which  were  EVOS  [Exxon Valdez  Oil  Spill]  criminal                                                                    
     settlement  funds,  and  funnel it  through  a  federal                                                                    
     agency  so that  they  could actually  do the  granting                                                                    
     necessary  to  the  private individuals  that  own  the                                                                    
     land.    In doing  so,  the  federal agencies  take  11                                                                    
     percent of the  funding right off the top.   This is an                                                                    
     administratively  cumbersome process  and  we feel  the                                                                    
     public  would be  best served  if we  could make  these                                                                    
     grants directly to those individuals.                                                                                      
MR.  TAYLOR pointed  out  that HB  61 is  identical  to the  bill                                                               
passed by  the House last year,  which went to the  Senate at the                                                               
end  of session,  but "ran  out of  time before  it passed."   He                                                               
encouraged the  House Resources Standing Committee  to support HB                                                               
61.  He addressed a  concern expressed during the House Fisheries                                                               
Committee meetings  regarding that the  grants might be  used for                                                               
other purposes  or be  granted to  "some nonprofit  whose motives                                                               
weren't necessarily pure."  Mr. Taylor's response to that was:                                                                  
     Since  1995,  we've had  186  grants  applied for,  180                                                                    
     projects that  were approved - and  we've completed 170                                                                    
     of  them  -  and  if anyone  on  [the  House  Resources                                                                    
     Standing Committee]  is interested,  I did  hastily put                                                                    
     together  a list  of  all those  projects  - who  those                                                                    
     grants went  to over the last  six years.  And  I think                                                                    
     you'll   see  that   this  program   has  been   highly                                                                    
     legitimate,  it goes  to landowners  that have  habitat                                                                    
     that  needs repair.   The  landowner  pays 50  percent.                                                                    
     [ADF&G]  has  been  covering 50  percent  through  this                                                                    
     cost-share  program,   and  occasionally  if   we  find                                                                    
     outside money  from some other  federal agency  that we                                                                    
     can put in there as well.                                                                                                  
Number 0599                                                                                                                     
MR. TAYLOR,  in response  to a question  by Co-Chair  Masek, said                                                               
that he didn't  think it would ever be the  case that there would                                                               
be grants awarded  in habitat and restoration in order  to stop a                                                               
development project,  such as a  lodge.  He said  such activities                                                               
are  almost always  done  on  private land  and  the habitat  and                                                               
restoration  grants  given out  in  the  past  have been  to  aid                                                               
development on  a particular piece  of private land, not  to stop                                                               
development on someone else's land.                                                                                             
Number 0645                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN  asked if ADF&G  worked in  conjunction with                                                               
the Kenai River Sport[fishing] Association (KRSA).                                                                              
MR.  TAYLOR  said yes.    He  listed  several groups  that  ADF&G                                                               
"coordinates" and "cooperates" with,  including KRSA, Kenai Youth                                                               
Conservation Corp, and the Alaska Fly Fisherman's Association.                                                                  
Number 0708                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN  asked if [those  agencies listed  above] do                                                               
[habitat  restoration] on  public land  versus ADF&G  [restoring]                                                               
private land.                                                                                                                   
MR. TAYLOR replied that ADF&G  has been involved in many projects                                                               
along the  Kenai River, public as  well as private projects.   He                                                               
cited the  EVOS small-parcel  purchases along  the Kenai  and the                                                             
Kenai Borough properties  as two examples of  ADF&G's public land                                                               
restoration involvement.                                                                                                        
Number 0776                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN  inquired as to whether  the landowners come                                                               
to [ADF&G] for assistance, or does [ADF&G] come to them.                                                                        
MR.  TAYLOR answered  that  when the  landowners  found out  that                                                               
funding was  available, they  approached ADF&G.   He  referred to                                                               
page 2 of the handout in  the bill packet, stating that it should                                                               
actually  follow  the  last  page,  which  is  titled,  "Decision                                                               
Matrix."   He discussed  the categories  listed on  the "Decision                                                               
Matrix" that  are used  to rate an  applicant and  prioritize the                                                               
Number 0873                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN  asked if the  Decision Matrix  had anything                                                               
to do with the amount of money that was awarded.                                                                                
MR. TAYLOR  replied yes.   He approximated  that ADF&G  was given                                                               
about $1.5  million - appropriated  by the legislature  six years                                                               
ago through  SB 183 - that  they have been awarding  each year to                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN  referred to  the Decision Matrix  and asked                                                               
Mr.  Taylor if  the varying  amounts awarded  were determined  by                                                               
[ADF&G], by the application, or through an evaluation.                                                                          
MR. TAYLOR answered that the  amount awarded is "determined by an                                                               
evaluation  of  the project:    The  cost  benefits of  what  the                                                               
applicant has proposed versus what  we think would be the return.                                                               
And you'll  find one of the  factors that we used  for ranking is                                                               
reasonable project cost."                                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN clarified his question as follows:                                                                         
     If I  were a landowner down  there, and I came  in with                                                                    
     (indisc.)... $12,000,  or heavens, $19,000,  would your                                                                    
     group say, "Well Green, you  wanting $19,000 to do what                                                                    
     you  said, we've  gone through  this matrix,  and yeah,                                                                    
     you qualify,  but it's not  $19,000, it's  only $8,500.                                                                    
     And so  we'll match you  on $8,500, we're not  going to                                                                    
     match you  on $19,000."   And so  you get  your $9,500,                                                                    
     and that just  about does it, and I don't  have to come                                                                    
     up with anything.                                                                                                          
MR. TAYLOR replied as follows:                                                                                                  
     I have  not been  through this particular  process with                                                                    
     our  staff  on  the  Kenai, and  I  can't  answer  your                                                                    
     question.   But I suspect  that the way things  work is                                                                    
     that they  have a  pretty good  idea, depending  on how                                                                    
     many  feet  of  river   frontage  you're  going  to  be                                                                    
     restoring,  what techniques  you're  going to  use.   I                                                                    
     know that  our staff has  a very good estimate  of what                                                                    
     it's going  to cost  per (indisc.) ...  per 10  feet of                                                                    
     riverbank  restoration,  depending  on  the  technique.                                                                    
     So,  while an  applicant may  come in  asking for  more                                                                    
     than what it might cost,  they're not likely to get all                                                                    
     of it  paid for  through this.   I  think ...  we match                                                                    
     dollar  for dollar,  and if  we have  a project  that's                                                                    
     $20,000, and it only  costs $15,000, the applicant will                                                                    
     pay $7,500, and the state will pay $7,500.                                                                                 
Number 1065                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  GREEN asked  if  this  [habitat restoration]  has                                                               
been done on other "sports rivers."                                                                                             
MR.  TAYLOR said  that so  far the  efforts of  the program  have                                                               
primarily focused  on the Kenai  River, but there have  been some                                                               
smaller  federal grants  used to  try to  "expand this  effort to                                                               
some of the  streams in the Matanuska Valley."   He remarked, "It                                                               
isn't anything that's not a  50/50 cost-share program set up like                                                               
this."  Mr. Taylor  added that it is the hope  of ADF&G to expand                                                               
the program to benefit other parts of the state.                                                                                
Number 1150                                                                                                                     
MR.  TAYLOR,  answering  a  question  by  Representative  Scalzi,                                                               
stated the following:                                                                                                           
     Last year  the bill  allowed for the  municipalities to                                                                    
     have a tax  break for restoration, it  gave the private                                                                    
     landowners  a potential  tax break.   The  original law                                                                    
     was specific to the Kenai  [River], and now that's been                                                                    
     expanded statewide.   So other municipalities,  if they                                                                    
     choose to, can provide for  a tax break for restoration                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  SCALZI  asked  if  the  50/50 match  was  part  of  the                                                               
original legislation.                                                                                                           
MR. TAYLOR answered that it  wasn't part of that legislation, but                                                               
was a  "companion piece."   He said that more  private landowners                                                               
get involved in  restoration if a tax break is  made available to                                                               
them, and  the current  state statutes are  such that  only Kenai                                                               
residents can get a tax break.                                                                                                  
Number 1230                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIR  MASEK   stated  for  the  record   that  Representative                                                               
Kerttula was present.  She  referred to an earlier statement made                                                               
by Mr. Taylor  regarding a legislator who  had expressed concerns                                                               
over delegated funds being spent  for ill purposes, and asked him                                                               
to expound on that remark.                                                                                                      
MR.   TAYLOR  explained   that   the  original   bill  gave   the                                                               
commissioner  [of ADF&G]  "broad granting  authority" of  federal                                                               
and  state funds,  with no  specified purpose.   Therefore,  many                                                               
legislators were  concerned about  letting the state  grant money                                                               
that  was not  earmarked for  a certain  purpose.   Subsequently,                                                               
ADF&G "narrowed  the scope" on  federal and state  funds spending                                                               
in habitat  restoration.   Although there  was concern  that this                                                               
type of program  could be misused in the future,  the language of                                                               
the bill  was structured to  prevent its  misuse.  He  offered to                                                               
work on  the language  with any  legislator still  concerned with                                                               
CO-CHAIR MASEK  referred to  page 1,  lines 5-6,  regarding grant                                                               
authority, and stated that the wording needed "fine tuning."                                                                    
MR. TAYLOR  directed Co-Chair Masek's attention  to the remainder                                                               
of the language in Section 1 of the bill.  He read:                                                                             
     [The  commissioner]  may   award  grants  from  federal                                                                    
     funds,  other than  funds  received  under the  federal                                                                    
     Pittman-Robertson   and   Dingell-Johnson/Wallop-Breaux                                                                    
He stated, "In other words, federal  funds that are not a part of                                                               
our continuing  appropriation from Congress, that  are the excise                                                               
taxes on sporting goods."                                                                                                       
MR.  TAYLOR explained  that those  funds could  only be  used for                                                               
habitat restoration  or enhancement projects.   He mentioned that                                                               
there is big movement in the  Western United States right now for                                                               
Congress to provide more funding  for salmon habitat restoration,                                                               
because  of   the  endangered  species   issue  in   the  Pacific                                                               
Northwest.   Mr.  Taylor said  that,  theoretically, if  Congress                                                               
provides those  funds, ADF&G  would come  to the  legislature and                                                               
request a capital  project.  The money appropriated  would not be                                                               
part of ADF&G's regular operating  budget.  The legislature would                                                               
examine  ADF&G's outline,  determine  whether or  not to  provide                                                               
those funds,  specify the use of  the funds, and ensure  that the                                                               
funds were used appropriately.                                                                                                  
Number 1595                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIR MASEK  asked if there  were any further questions.   She                                                               
closed public testimony, and opened up committee discussion.                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  FATE  made  a  motion   to  move  HB  61  out  of                                                               
committee.  There being no objection,  HB 61 was moved out of the                                                               
House Resources Standing Committee.                                                                                             

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