Legislature(2003 - 2004)
03/17/2003 01:04 PM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 139-CLOSING CERTAIN LAND TO MINERAL ENTRY CO-CHAIR FATE announced that the first order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 139, "An Act approving an interim classification by the commissioner of natural resources closing certain land within the Glacier Creek and Winner Creek drainages to new mineral entry; and providing for an effective date." Number 0133 REPRESENTATIVE MIKE HAWKER, Alaska State Legislature, speaking as the sponsor of HB 139, characterized HB 139 as a pro-economic development bill that requires the closure of a mining area. He noted that [HB 139] has the support of the Alaska Miners Association and that it affirms the extension of an existing closure for mineral entry in Girdwood near the Alyeska Ski Resort. Approximately 10 year ago, he said, this area was closed to new commercial mining entry and the existing commercial claims were purchased outright. The mineral entry holders supported this closure in order to facilitate the expansion of the ski resort. During the last 10 years of the existing closure, he said, the hotel development has largely concluded. The target for the next 10 years is to continue that development past the ski facilities and around to the back of the mountain, which requires the reissuance of a mineral closing order, to extend the closure for 10 more years, he explained. The governor has reissued the mineral closing order and due to AS 38.05.300(c) the legislature is required to affirm the closure orders within 90 days, he said, and the 90-day window will end on April 20th. REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER directed attention to the committee packet and the letters of support, which are from associations ranging from the Alaska Miners Association to the Municipality of Anchorage and the Heritage Land Bank. Furthermore, he said, there has been verbal support of this legislation from the Girdwood Board of Supervisors. Representative Hawker informed the committee that this area was heavily mined in the later part of the 19th century and largely played out to commercial mining in the mid-20th century. Today, its prospects are for recreational mining. He noted that the committee packet should include a letter from the Division of Mining, Department of Natural Resources (DNR), that discusses the history of this area and its limited commercial prospect. Representative Hawker concluded by urging the committee to forward this legislation in order to allow it to reach the governor in the timeframe necessary. Number 0516 REPRESENTATIVE MASEK moved to adopt the proposed committee substitute (CS), labeled 23-LS0644\I, Kurtz, 3/11/03, as the working document. There being no objection, Version I was before the committee. Number 0675 REPRESENTATIVE WOLF asked whether anybody has received input from Chugach National Forest regarding support for this. REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER explained that there are letters of support from DNR and the Heritage Land Bank and that of 5,740 acres, approximately 1,000 acres belongs to the Municipality of Anchorage, which supports [HB 139]. He offered his belief that the land in question is state, not federal, property, and that 10 years ago, the land was acquired via a Bureau of Land Management transfer to the Municipality [of Anchorage] for transfer to the State of Alaska. He said the Chugach National Forest had been taken out of this issue about 10 years ago. REPRESENTATIVE WOLF, noting that the Chugach National Forest is neighboring the property, asked if neighbors had been asked for comment. REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER deferred the question to his staff. Number 0695 SARA WRIGHT, Staff to Representative Mike Hawker, Alaska State Legislature, testified. She explained that the Toohey family owned quite a bit of neighboring land, and that Cam Toohey had been sent a copy of the legislation and had not been heard back from. REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER said the other major adjacent land lessor, the Alyeska Ski Resort development area, is "very much, as part of the 'Girdwood 20/20' organization, in favor of this." He talked about a letter from Chris Von Imhof, vice president and chief executive officer (CEO), Alyeska Ski Resort, supporting this development. Number 0790 REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG asked Representative Hawker about the difference between the bill and the proposed CS. REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER said he thought the change was suggested by the Alaska Miners Association. He offered his opinion that it makes it a better bill. He remarked: In the first draft - this is a moratorium at the moment - again, it continues a moratorium against new mineral entry; should tenures come up without having any commencement of alternate development, this land will revert and become available for commercial mineral entry again. In the prior bill, that reversion required an affirmative action on part of the administration. ... The CS version makes that reversion automatic unless -- it puts the burden on the administration to notify or give notice that there has been the commencement of development. It was ... a reversing of the notification process and, frankly, I believe it makes it a better bill. REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG remarked, "That's in a conditional effect." REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER, in response, said yes; that is exactly how that reads. The committee took an at-ease from 1:13 p.m. to 1:14 p.m. Number 0952 BOB LOEFFLER, Director, Division of Mining, Land and Water, Department of Natural Resources (DNR), testified, noting DNR's support for the bill. He explained that the closure occurred about 10 years ago with the agreement of all of the parties. He said since that time the legislature had passed AS 38.005.300, which requires closures of this nature to be acted upon by the legislature. Mr. Loeffler said this is an area with low mineral value but with a significant potential for the Municipality of Anchorage. He offered his belief that a 10-year closure to allow marketing and financing to determine whether [it will develop into] a significant tourist location is in the best interest of the state and takes very little from the mineral industry. Number 1034 REPRESENTATIVE WOLF asked if DNR had contacted any neighboring [property owners] or the Chugach National Forest to ask for their comments on this closure. MR. LOEFFLER said he expected it was done as part of a "Turnagain Arm plan" about 10 years ago; the department involved "absolutely everybody who could possibly be involved" at that time, and the U.S. Forest Service was on the team. He said the [department] hadn't redone it because [HB 139] is an extension of the previous closure. REPRESENTATIVE WOLF expressed appreciation and he indicated it was his intention to ensure that [the Forest Service] had been involved initially. REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG asked Mr. Loeffler if there were any requirements to ask again if there are any comments. MR. LOEFFLER said a public notice was posted as part of this mineral closure. He remarked, "So, the interim closure, actually, we already did the public notice and received very few significant comments." REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG asked for clarification on whether Mr. Loeffler was speaking about the original [closure] or this extension. MR. LOEFFLER said it was also done the last year for the extension. Number 1169 GEORGE CANNELOS, Director, Heritage Land Bank, testified, noting that he was [testifying] on behalf of the Municipality [of Anchorage]. He thanked Representative Hawker for sponsoring HB 139 and he expressed strong support for the proposed CS; he suggested the [proposed CS] is a better bill. He said it will provide [the Municipality of Anchorage] a real opportunity to partner with the state and private sector to really test the feasibility of developing Glacier [and] Winner Creek as a major alpine ski resort area and the second such area in Girdwood. He talked about the intention later this year, through the Heritage Land Bank, to issue a [request for proposals (RFP)] to update the development concepts and economics behind the project. He expressed hope that by the end of the year, formally solicited interests from a prime developer can be sought. He explained that a project of this magnitude would take several phases, and he offered his belief that 10 years is a reasonable amount of time to see if this is going to go or not. He reiterated support for HB 139. Number 1262 BRUCE BUSTAMANTE, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau, testified. He expressed support for the bill and talked about HB 139 allowing for the further study of the Glacier-Winner Creek area with the possibility of further development. He said the feeling is that the Alyeska Ski Resort has added tremendously to its portfolio of offerings to the tourism industry and that it adds greatly to the quality of life in Southcentral Alaska. He talked about seeing expansion of that particular area to improve Anchorage's position as a world-class ski destination and he said it really "puts us on the map" in attracting more competitions and such. He expressed support of the city's position to move ahead with further study and development. Number 1353 REPRESENTATIVE GATTO noted that he was going to vote for the bill and commended Representative Hawker for writing it so clearly. REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER gave credit to legislative legal counsel for good "lawyerly work" in helping to assemble the bill. He said anybody with any question about the "ins and outs appearance" [or] a concern about understanding the technical nature of the legislation should refer to the sectional analysis, which he noted is particularly well written. He said the credit goes to his staff and legislative legal counsel for doing a good job. Number 1461 REPRESENTATIVE MASEK turned attention to page 1, lines 10-12, which read: The legislature finds that the Glacier Creek and Winner Creek drainages hold significant potential for the development of a new four season resort in Girdwood. REPRESENTATIVE MASEK asked what the rationale was for this statement to be [included] in the bill. REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER remarked: As we've heard testimony today from ... Mr. Bustamante ... with the [Anchorage] Convention and Visitors Bureau, particularly the support this bill has received up from ... Mr. Chris Von Imhof, Vice President and CEO of ... Alyeska [Ski] Resort, and writing in its capacity as the Girdwood 20/20 organization, recognizing this is a ... continued implementation of a long-term economic development plan in the Girdwood valley, we further have the documentation support in the packets here from both the ... Municipality of Anchorage at both the executive level and specifically with the Heritage Land Bank personnel; ... Mr. Cannelos is the head of Heritage Land Bank, whose (indisc.). The majority of the property Heritage Land Bank currently holds and operates is in the Girdwood valley, and it's a major mission that they're undertaking, is economic development for the entire Southcentral Alaska, specifically, the Municipality of Anchorage. I truly believe the support of this bill - the reason we're doing it is for the furthering of the economic potential of a four-seasons resort development, which is for the point in the legislation [that] indicates the legislature finds that these drainages do hold specific potential for the development of a new four- seasons resort based on the extremely competent testimony and well-based research done in preparing this legislation and having all of the support we've accumulated behind it. Number 1609 REPRESENTATIVE GATTO remarked: If the commissioner certifies that they have followed the rules and have begun development, it reminds me a little bit of stranded gas. Once they've passed the test of beginning development, is there ... any limit to saying, "Hey, you've got to ... finish something in some amount of time," or is it just reserved for their development at that point? REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER offered his belief that there is sufficient latitude in the language of the bill, particularly under Section 1 [page 1, lines 13-14, and page 2, line 1]. He said Anchorage has utilized these land-use and land-development master plans extensively and he believed it would be a very good basis for determining if the development is legitimate or not. He mentioned having sufficient interests on both sides of the issue in the future to make certain that that development is viable. Number 1709 REPRESENTATIVE MASEK moved to report CSHB 139 [Version 23- LS0644\I, Kurtz, 3/11/03] out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes, and she asked for unanimous consent. There being no objection, CSHB 139(RES) was reported from the House Resources Standing Committee.