Legislature(2001 - 2002)

04/23/2001 01:15 PM RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 244-RIGHT-OF-WAY TO DENALI BOR. FOR RR/UTIL.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR MASEK  announced that the  next order of  business would                                                               
be HOUSE BILL NO. 244, "An Act  relating to a grant of state land                                                               
to the Denali  Borough for a railroad and utility  corridor and a                                                               
railroad development project; repealing  provisions relating to a                                                               
grant  of a  right-of-way  of  land for  a  railroad and  utility                                                               
corridor  to   the  Alaska  Industrial  Development   and  Export                                                               
Authority; and providing for an effective date."                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Number 0857                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   JEANETTE   JAMES,  Alaska   State   Legislature,                                                               
testified as  the sponsor of HB  244.  This legislation,  HB 244,                                                               
would  "undo" the  authority  Alaska  Industrial Development  and                                                               
Export Authority (AIDEA)  has to bond to identify  a corridor for                                                               
rail in  the north access to  Denali National Park.   She pointed                                                               
out  that the  committee packet  includes maps,  which illustrate                                                               
this 90,000 acre  piece of property that is next  to Denali Park.                                                               
This  property  is  state  land   and  is  also  known  as  "Wolf                                                               
Township."     Representative  James  explained  that   "we"  are                                                               
attempting  to  gain  other  access into  the  park  because  the                                                               
current  access is  insufficient,  at capacity,  and  in need  of                                                               
improvement.  Therefore,  a second entrance to the  park would be                                                               
valuable.   However, she stressed  that she doesn't favor  a road                                                               
due to all the problems a  road would create [in a park setting].                                                               
This proposal merely  provides an opportunity for  rail access to                                                               
only  the  state lands,  which  is  about  40 miles  from  Healy.                                                               
Although there  may be some  interest in going farther,  it would                                                               
require  federal intervention  and much  work.   Furthermore, the                                                               
group interested  in putting in  this 40 miles of  rail indicates                                                               
that this is an opportunity to be a "paying proposition."                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  JAMES  explained that  HB  244  would identify  a                                                               
swath  from the  90,000 acre  piece of  land and  give it  to the                                                               
Denali Borough  so that the  borough could identify and  survey a                                                               
route through the  middle.  The borough would have  until 2006 to                                                               
identify and  survey that  route, after  which the  borough would                                                               
only  own the  route, which  would  be up  to 3,500  acres.   The                                                               
reality is  that the corridor  would require merely  1,500 acres.                                                               
Representative James  acknowledged that  some are  concerned with                                                               
the location  of the  corridor.   Furthermore, the  Department of                                                               
Natural Resources  (DNR) would prefer authorizing  the borough to                                                               
identify the corridor  and return to DNR in order  to ensure that                                                               
there  are no  existing uses,  which would  result in  conflicts.                                                               
Once  DNR approved  the  corridor, then  the  surveying could  be                                                               
done,  after which  DNR could  transfer  the land  to the  Denali                                                               
Borough.  Representative James clarified,  "That is the amendment                                                               
that  we're going  to be  working on  to try  to get  a CS  up to                                                               
Finance, but  because we're on  an extended timeframe  here, we'd                                                               
like to move the bill out as it is today."                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES,  in response  to the concern  regarding why                                                               
40,000 acres  is necessary for  this, pointed out that  the route                                                               
would have to traverse the lay  of the land and proceed such that                                                               
animal  and habitat  conflicts are  avoided.   Therefore, a  wide                                                               
area is necessary.  She then  turned to the concern regarding the                                                               
possibility that the land is given  to the Denali Borough, but no                                                               
railroad  is built.   Therefore,  it was  decided that  this [the                                                               
corridor  land] will  be part  of the  borough's land  selection.                                                               
Representative  James  informed  the committee  that  the  Denali                                                               
Borough Assembly is in support of  this proposition, HB 244.  She                                                               
noted  that she  would  be in  the area  this  summer working  to                                                               
ensure that this corridor would not intrude on state park land.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Number 0382                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  JAMES informed  the committee  that U.S.  Senator                                                               
Murkowski  got   $1.32  million   appropriated  by   the  federal                                                               
government to  work on this issue.   There was a  park survey [by                                                               
the  Park Service]  who did  support  the northern  access.   The                                                               
state needs a  match of $330 million, which she  believes will be                                                               
included in  this year's capital  budget.  Therefore,  there will                                                               
be  money  to  perform  the   environmental  assessment  and  the                                                               
environmental impact study (EIS).   Representative James said, "I                                                               
think  the protection  for the  listening  to the  voices of  the                                                               
folks is in  there in the process  and what we really  need to do                                                               
is get it on the table  and authorize somebody to go forward with                                                               
it and that's  what this bill is intended to  do."  The committee                                                               
substitute (CS)  has already been  ordered, but  wasn't available                                                               
in time for this meeting.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Number 0270                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
JOSEPH  FIELDS, President,  Kantishna  Holdings, Inc.,  testified                                                               
via teleconference  in support of  HB 244.   He said that  HB 244                                                               
provides an expedited methodology  to establish a right-of-way in                                                               
order  to create  something that  has  been endorsed  by all  the                                                               
boroughs  and cities  of  the  Railbelt.   He  recalled that  the                                                               
legislature has  passed two  resolutions in  support of  this and                                                               
there was  the AIDEA bill  of 1998,  which is essentially  HB 244                                                               
save the change  from AIDEA to the Denali  Borough.  Furthermore,                                                               
HB  244 does  relieve the  bonding authorization  from AIDEA  and                                                               
eliminates the  transfer to AIDEA,  which would be  beneficial to                                                               
AIDEA.   Mr. Fields  informed the committee  that there  has been                                                               
federal movement [with]  a new secretary reviewing  the access as                                                               
found  by the  1994  Denali task  force.   That  task force,  the                                                               
national public  board that advises  the National  Parks Service,                                                               
called for  a new access  route to  Wonder Lake.   Therefore, Mr.                                                               
Fields was  confident that with the  passage of HB 244,  the work                                                               
of identifying  the specific  right-of-way can  begin.   He noted                                                               
that  the  right-of-way  will  not  take  up  the  entire  yellow                                                               
section, but  will only take up  something the size of  the Parks                                                               
Highway  and end  up  as  a 300  foot  right-of-way.   He  echoed                                                               
Representative  James' earlier  comments regarding  the intention                                                               
to avoid habitat  and features that are  difficult for railroads.                                                               
Mr.   Fields  announced   that  Stampede   Road  is   not  really                                                               
appropriate for this.  He hoped  that the committee would move HB
244 forward so  that the details could be worked  out at the next                                                               
hearing,  which [will  produce]  a good  bill  that will  produce                                                               
about $.25  billion worth of  private investment in the  state as                                                               
well  as possibly  900  jobs over  the years.    He concluded  by                                                               
saying,   "This  is   a  rare   opportunity  for   public-private                                                               
relationship to  flourish and go forward.   I hope you  will move                                                               
it quickly."                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
TAPE 01-41, SIDE A                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
[Please  note that  approximately  three minutes  of Mr.  Braun's                                                               
testimony  was  not  recorded  and thus  was  obtained  from  the                                                               
written testimony he read the committee.]                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Number 0001                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
DAVID BRAUN, testifying via teleconference, read the following                                                                  
testimony:                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     [I am  opposed to House  Bill 244.  Public  and private                                                                    
     land developers  are trying  to appropriate  state land                                                                    
     in  Denali  Borough.    They  want  to  make  the  Wolf                                                                    
     Townships  an  extension   of  Denali  National  Park's                                                                    
     transportation  system, and  develop it  for their  own                                                                    
     financial gain.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     On  Thursday,  April   19  [the]  House  Transportation                                                                    
     Committee  quickly  passed  HB  244  out  of  committee                                                                    
     without  providing for  any  public  comment or  public                                                                    
     hearing.  The  history of this bill is  interesting.  A                                                                    
     working  draft of  the bill  distributed at  the Denali                                                                    
     Borough Assembly  meeting April  7th said,  "The Denali                                                                    
     Borough  shall  identify  and  survey  a  railroad  and                                                                    
     utility corridor  ... from near the  community of Healy                                                                    
     to  the eastern  boundary of  Denali National  Park and                                                                    
     Preserve."  It  also said, "The borough  may retain not                                                                    
     more  than  3,500 acres  of  the  land granted  to  the                                                                    
     borough under  this section."   This  land would  be in                                                                    
     addition to  the borough entitlement and  is worth many                                                                    
     millions  of  dollars.]    And   I  don't  believe  the                                                                    
     citizens of Alaska will  ever be adequately compensated                                                                    
     for the loss of this public land.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
     A  legislative staffer  noted  that  having the  Denali                                                                    
     Borough do the survey for  a private enterprise put the                                                                    
     borough in  the role of  developer.  The bill  was then                                                                    
     changed  so  that   Kantishna  Holdings,  Incorporated,                                                                    
     would identify  and survey the railway,  but the Denali                                                                    
     Borough would still get 3,500  acres to develop whether                                                                    
     the railroad  was built  or not.   In my  opinion, this                                                                    
     bill  is an  attempt to  give valuable  public land  to                                                                    
     Denali Borough  to sell,  lease, or  otherwise develop.                                                                    
     The ultimate  use of any  land conveyed to  the borough                                                                    
     is completely unpredictable.   The borough assembly has                                                                    
     been unwilling to  regulate land use as  charged by the                                                                    
     legislature.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
     Contrary  to what  some supporters  of HB  244 say  the                                                                    
     question is  not whether  development should  occur but                                                                    
     where it  should be.   There are  tens of  thousands of                                                                    
     acres east  of Panguingue  Subdivision open  to borough                                                                    
     land  selection.   Leaving the  Wolf Townships  as they                                                                    
     are  encourages  development  that  is  independent  of                                                                    
     Denali  National  Park and  Preserve.    People of  the                                                                    
     state, I don't  believe, wanted the Park  Service to be                                                                    
     given to Wolf  Townships and I don't  believe they want                                                                    
     ... the  Wolf Townships, in  any way, connected  to the                                                                    
     park.     Alaskans   and  tourists   use  this   as  an                                                                    
     alternative to  the congestion  and bureaucracy  of the                                                                    
     park.   It's worth noting  that now travelers  from all                                                                    
     over the globe are  purposely coming exclusively to the                                                                    
     Wolf Townships as  a result of Jon  Krakaur's book Into                                                                  
     the Wild,  the story of  Chris McCandless's death.   It                                                                  
     is  shortsighted and  absolutely impossible  to try  to                                                                    
     funnel all  our visitors through Denali  National Park.                                                                    
     We can  learn from the  mistakes made outside  parks in                                                                    
     the Lower  48.  Keeping  Wolf Townships as they  are is                                                                    
     good for economic development.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
     Also, I have  to question the motives of  those who are                                                                    
     hostile to  the National  Park Service that  would have                                                                    
     the park  encroach on  our public land.   I  also think                                                                    
     that  Kantishna Holdings,  Incorporated, should  reveal                                                                    
     the  names of  all those  who will  benefit financially                                                                    
     from this venture.   ... I must state  again that there                                                                    
     are no  restrictions on land  the Denali  Borough might                                                                    
     sell or lease (indisc.).                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Number 0303                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
NANCY  BALE, President,  Denali Citizens  Council, testified  via                                                               
teleconference.   Ms. Bale  specified that  she is  testifying on                                                               
behalf  of  herself and  the  Denali  Citizens Council,  a  local                                                               
oversight group in  the Denali area.  She  informed the committee                                                               
that  she has  lived and  worked  in Denali  National Park  since                                                               
1971.  Furthermore,  she has mushed and skied  the Stampede area.                                                               
Ms. Bale pointed out that lands  north of the Wolf Townships were                                                               
given  to  Denali  National  Park  as part  of  the  1980  Alaska                                                               
National  Interest Lands  Conservation  Act (ANILCA)  settlement.                                                               
The  purpose  of  all  the  northern  additions  was  to  provide                                                               
wildlife habitat, specifically for the  Denali caribou herd.  The                                                               
Stampede Trail is  located on the open tundra  that gently slopes                                                               
downward to some  rolling hills.  From her  personal contact with                                                               
the Stampede  Trail, she  informed the  committee that  there are                                                               
many wetlands along  the route as well as some  major streams and                                                               
a small river.  This area  has already been regarded as important                                                               
as wildlife  habitat by  the state lands  planning process.   She                                                               
quoted the Tanana Basin Area Plan  as saying, "State land in this                                                               
unit  is to  be  retained in  public  ownership for  multiple-use                                                               
management.   The  emphasis is  on management  of recreation  and                                                               
maintaining fish and wildlife habitat."                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MS.  BALE related  her belief  that the  importance of  this land                                                               
necessitates  any change  in land  management to  go through  the                                                               
already  existing   public  process.     Furthermore,   the  Wolf                                                               
Townships  area is  not  identified  as an  area  from which  the                                                               
borough could  select entitlements.   Therefore, an  amendment to                                                               
the Tanana Basin  Area Plan would be required before  it could be                                                               
deeded.      However,   HB   244   "shortstops"   that   process.                                                               
Additionally,  whenever   the  state  conveys  land   from  state                                                               
ownership to another entity a  best interest finding is generally                                                               
required, which  is not  included in this  bill.   Therefore, the                                                               
public process in  determining the fate of this  land is somewhat                                                               
sidestepped by HB 244.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MS.  BALE  then turned  to  the  issue  of  due diligence.    She                                                               
informed  the  committee  that   Kantishna  Holdings,  Inc.,  has                                                               
already had  a chance for  a right-of-way through the  1998 AIDEA                                                               
bill.   However,  Kantishna Holdings,  Inc., has  failed to  show                                                               
AIDEA  due diligence  in the  many intervening  years.   Thus she                                                               
wasn't  sure  that  Kantishna  Holdings,  Inc.,  could  show  due                                                               
diligence to develop a cost effective railway in this area.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS. BALE  recalled Representative James' remark  that she prefers                                                               
a railway  because it's more environmentally  friendly.  However,                                                               
Ms. Bale  pondered whether the  3,500 acres, if not  developed by                                                               
rail because of  the lack of due diligence would  end up having a                                                               
road  through  them.    She  informed the  committee  that  SB  3                                                               
nominates   some   funds   to    study   other   rail   or   road                                                               
[possibilities],  which  creates  conflict.   Although  Ms.  Bale                                                               
agreed with Representative  James that a road in  this area would                                                               
not be appropriate, she didn't believe  that a rail would be cost                                                               
effective  or  a "good  for  Alaskans"  way to  promote  tourism.                                                               
There are dozens  of alternatives to this that  will be discussed                                                               
during  a panel  discussion  by the  Denali  Citizens Council  in                                                               
early June.   Ms. Bale  indicated that the committee  should have                                                               
her full written testimony.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
LINDA PAGANELLI  testified via teleconference.   She informed the                                                               
committee that  although she is  a member of the  Northern Alaska                                                               
Environmental  Center as  the Denali  Watch  Coordinator, she  is                                                               
testifying  on her  own behalf.    She noted  that the  committee                                                               
should have her written testimony, which she read as follows:                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
     I am a long time resident of the Denali Borough living                                                                     
         on the Stampede Trail in the Panguingue Creek                                                                          
     Subdivision.   This  coming summer  will  mark my  20th                                                                    
     season driving a  bus on the Denali  National Park road                                                                    
     for  the park's  concessionaire.   While  I do  support                                                                    
     efforts  to assess  possible solutions  to park  access                                                                    
     issues, I do  not support the North  Access solution as                                                                    
     put forth in HB 244 based on the following.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     Determinations made  by the Alaska State  Department of                                                                    
     Natural Resources,  the National Park service,  and the                                                                    
     United States Congress are  unanimous in their findings                                                                    
     that the  area in question, the  Wolf Townships, serves                                                                    
     as an important habitat  for wildlife, particularly for                                                                    
     park caribou and wolf populations.   These lands should                                                                    
     remain  in   public  ownership  for  the   purposes  of                                                                    
     maintaining  wilderness  recreation  opportunities  for                                                                    
     local,  regional, and  statewide  users and  protecting                                                                    
     fish and wildlife habitat.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
     In  1986  the  Denali Subsistence  Resource  Commission                                                                    
     conveyed,  to  the  Secretary of  the  Interior,  their                                                                    
     strong opposition  to any construction of  new roads or                                                                    
     railroads in  Denali National Park  and Preserve.   The                                                                    
     commission   has   reiterated   their   opposition   to                                                                    
     development of roads  a number of times.   Any activity                                                                    
     that  impairs  the  overall  health  of  an  ecosystem,                                                                    
     natural  processes  or  resource availability  has  the                                                                    
     potential  to   adversely  impact  the   customary  and                                                                    
     traditional activities practiced  by subsistence users.                                                                    
     The Wolf  Townships, retained in state  ownership, will                                                                    
     continue  to serve  to protect  the  natural ranges  of                                                                    
     large  park mammals  from incompatible  development and                                                                    
     will  thus,  better  ensure   the  continuance  of  the                                                                    
     subsistence lifestyle.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     I am  concerned with the stipulation  contained in this                                                                    
     bill  that grants  over 45,000  acres  of prime  public                                                                    
     land to  the Denali  Borough.  I  am in  agreement with                                                                    
     the  Department  of  Natural Resources,  "that  a  more                                                                    
     efficient and  equally effective approach would  be for                                                                    
     the borough  and Kantishna Holdings, Inc.,  to identify                                                                    
     the  corridor first,  then DNR  transfer  the land,  or                                                                    
     Kantishna Holdings,  Inc., simply apply for  a ROW from                                                                    
     DNR."                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     I am also in agreement  with their assessment that this                                                                    
     deal  should  not come  down  to  a  "give away"  to  a                                                                    
     private developer  and that the  citizens of  the state                                                                    
     receive  adequate  compensation  for  granting  private                                                                    
     exclusive  use of  thousands of  acres  of state  land.                                                                    
     This bill grants sole rights  of project development to                                                                    
     one  company,  Kantishna  Holdings, Inc.,  without  the                                                                    
     opportunity  for a  competitive bid  process.   On this                                                                    
     basis, the  bill may be  unconstitutional.   Although I                                                                    
     am  far  from  being  a constitutional  law  expert,  I                                                                    
     request  that the  committee  deliberate the  following                                                                    
     questions:    What's  the  legislative  purpose  behind                                                                    
     granting  Kantishna Holdings,  Inc., a  sweetheart deal                                                                    
     and  a  legislatively  mandated seat  at  the  planning                                                                    
     table?     Where's  the  state's  common   interest  in                                                                    
     bestowing this deal on Kantishna Holdings, Inc.?                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
     An  unreasonable fix  date for  the  transfer of  lands                                                                    
     from the  state to  the borough  fails to  encourage or                                                                    
     even  allow  public  input   on  the  consideration  of                                                                    
     whether or  not these  lands should transfer.   Impacts                                                                    
     to  homeowners, sport  and  subsistence hunters,  local                                                                    
     guiding  businesses,  and  other local,  regional,  and                                                                    
     statewide   users   will   consequently   be   ignored.                                                                    
     Transfer  to the  municipality should  not be  approved                                                                    
     until the recommended changes to  the Tanana Basin Area                                                                    
     Plan have been publicly  reviewed through the amendment                                                                    
     and  reclassification  processes   as  defined  by  the                                                                    
     appropriate Alaska statutes.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
     The  Denali Borough  government boasts  a "do  nothing"                                                                    
     policy towards  guiding growth  and development  in the                                                                    
     borough.   It's shortsighted approach  towards planning                                                                    
     ...                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Number 1174                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
JOAN   FRANKEVICH,  Regional   Staff,  Alaska   Regional  Office,                                                               
National  Park  Conservation  Association (NPCA),  testified  via                                                               
teleconference and  explained that  NPCA is a  national nonprofit                                                               
group  dedicated to  protecting  the National  Park  System.   Of                                                               
NPCA's  over 450,000  members over  1,000  live in  Alaska.   Ms.                                                               
Frankevich stated  that NPCA has  opposed the north  Denali route                                                               
since it  was first proposed.   Furthermore, NPCA opposes  HB 244                                                               
for the  following reasons.   There is little benefit  or purpose                                                               
of this  railroad to park  visitors.   Having worked in  the park                                                               
for five summers, Ms. Frankevich  is very familiar with the area,                                                               
visitors, travel  patterns, and with  the needs of  the visitors.                                                               
She noted that she is also  familiar with the northern area where                                                               
the railroad would  be placed.  Ms. Frankevich  said, "For Denali                                                               
visitors, the  primary attraction is wildlife  viewing."  Besides                                                               
Katamai  National  Park and  McNeil  State  Park, Denali  is  the                                                               
easiest and  most predictable location  to view grizzly  bears as                                                               
well as a variety of other  wildlife.  She informed the committee                                                               
that wildlife in  the park is seen mainly in  the middle third of                                                               
the  park road,  which is  roughly from  Igloo Canyon  to Eielson                                                               
Visitors Center.  The entrance area  and the Wonder Lake area are                                                               
forested and  thus it  is more difficult  to view  wildlife here.                                                               
The northern  route is similar  and thus the chance  for wildlife                                                               
viewing   from   the   railroad    would   be   fairly   minimal.                                                               
Additionally, the north route scenery  isn't as dramatic as along                                                               
the park  road.  The proposed  site of the railroad  on the north                                                               
side,  the low  range  blocks views  of the  high  peaks and  the                                                               
glaciers of the  Alaska Range.  Furthermore,  the [northern] area                                                               
has  never been  glaciated and  thus none  of the  dramatic broad                                                               
glaciated valleys and views like those  on the park road.  On the                                                               
proposed  route there  are occasional  views of  Mt. McKinley  at                                                               
high  points and  once  Wonder  Lake is  reached  the scenery  is                                                               
spectacular, which may  make the ride worth it.   She pointed out                                                               
that Mt.  McKinley is the  highest peak  in North America  and as                                                               
such it  generates its own  weather.  Therefore, even  when clear                                                               
elsewhere, the mountain  is often shrouded in clouds.   She noted                                                               
that  she worked  at Eielson  Visitors Center,  which tracks  the                                                               
visibility of  the mountain as is  done every year.   In general,                                                               
the mountain is visible 30 percent of the time.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MS. FRANKEVICH stated  that compared to the park  road, the north                                                               
rail  route  offers  poor   wildlife  viewing,  less  spectacular                                                               
scenery,  and infrequent  views of  Mt. McKinley  similar to  the                                                               
park  road.   Therefore, [NPCA]  doesn't see  this proposed  rail                                                               
route being  a benefit for  park visitors  nor in demand  by park                                                               
visitors.    Furthermore, there  is  a  misperception that  large                                                               
numbers of  potential visitors  are turned  away from  riding the                                                               
park buses every  year.  This is incorrect.   After speaking with                                                               
National Park  Service staff today,  Ms. Frankevich  was informed                                                               
that in  2000 there were over  363,000 visitors to Denali  with a                                                               
bus ridership  composing about 76  percent of that total.   About                                                               
2,000 people were turned away  from the [buses], which amounts to                                                               
less than 1  percent of the total visitors.   The other visitors,                                                               
such  as  climbers  to  Mt.   McKinley,  Ruth  Glacier  landings,                                                               
etcetera,  account   for  the   rest  of   the  numbers.     This                                                               
misperception  is  probably due  to  the  presence of  visitation                                                               
counters on  the highway prior  to 1996.  Those  counters counted                                                               
everyone on the  park's highway and thus it  was interpreted that                                                               
only a  small percentage  were able  to ride  the bus.   However,                                                               
that is  inaccurate.  Furthermore,  the current bus system  has a                                                               
high level of  satisfaction as supported by a 1998  survey by the                                                               
University of  Idaho in  which 88 percent  of the  visitors rated                                                               
the  bus   system  as  good   or  excellent  and   that  wildlife                                                               
observations were  the greatest single factor  in contributing to                                                               
visitor satisfaction.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MS.  FRANKEVICH  concluded  by saying  that  this  project  makes                                                               
little  sense to  her.   "A railroad  that starts  just 17  miles                                                               
north of  the park road  is very expensive  and ends in  the same                                                               
place -  where demand is  low, where they  won't see a  bear, and                                                               
over 50 percent  of the riders won't see Mt.  McKinley - seems to                                                               
serve  little purpose,"  she said.   Moreover,  she echoed  prior                                                               
concerns regarding giving this land  to the Denali Borough, which                                                               
is a  young borough with  no road powers.   The borough  has done                                                               
virtually  no land  planning, which  it abhors.   Therefore,  the                                                               
borough seems a highly unlikely  choice to receive a state right-                                                               
of-way.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Number 1500                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CHENAULT  recalled Ms. Bale's  testimony regarding                                                               
the Denali Borough's  lack of road powers and her  belief that it                                                               
shouldn't  have the  land.   He  asked if  Ms.  Bale would  favor                                                               
transferring state land to the hands of a local community.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MS. BALE  answered that the  way the  state has agreed  to manage                                                               
this  land per  the  Tanana  Basin Area  Plan  has addressed  the                                                               
general purposes  for wildlife management  and the  general needs                                                               
for subsistence  use of the  locals.  Therefore, she  favored the                                                               
retention of ownership in the state's hands.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR MASEK  closed the  public testimony  and inquired  as to                                                               
the will of the committee.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Number 1595                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE  moved to report  HB 244 out  of committee                                                               
with  individual  recommendations  and  the  accompanying  fiscal                                                               
notes.   There being no objection,  HB 244 was reported  from the                                                               
House Resources Standing Committee.                                                                                             

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