Legislature(2003 - 2004)
04/04/2003 01:10 PM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 210-CHITINA DIP NET FISHERY Number 0206 CHAIR FATE announced that the first order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 210, "An Act relating to the Chitina dip net fishery; and providing for an effective date." Number 0257 REPRESENTATIVE JOHN COGHILL, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor, explained that HB 210 would eliminate the Chitina dip net fee permit, which now costs $25. He credited then-Senator Pete Kelly with obtaining funding for a recent survey with regard to the public right-of-way relating to the fishery; this survey found about 60 percent of the land between the pavilion and O'Brien Creek has public access and thus requires no trespass fee. Part of the fee has been used as a trespass fee [paid to two Native corporations], and part has been used for [waste management services and to pay for administration of the permit program and services]. He referred to a color-coded map and asked his staff to explain it. Number 0401 RYNNIEVA MOSS, Staff to Representative John Coghill, Alaska State Legislature, explained that orange and dark orange show private lands owned by Native corporations; purple shows a Native allotment; brown is the right-of-way; and blue shows bodies of water. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL noted that the latter is the Copper River. He offered his belief that the board changed that from a subsistence to a personal-use fishery; he surmised the license fee would be sufficient [to offset costs]. He asked consideration of that when looking at the fiscal note, which shows $2 [of the $25 has been] used for administration of the permit program, $5 for contractual waste management, and $18 for contractual agreements with [Chitina Native Corporation and Ahtna, Incorporated, the two Native corporations]. Number 0568 REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL began discussion of Amendment 1, which read [original punctuation provided]: Page 2, Line 3 DELETE: (a) Page 2, line 9 DELETE Lines 9 through 20 REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL referred to [Section 2] on page 2, subsections (b) and (c). Noting that the matter had just been called to his attention, he suggested those subsections don't need to be included and are due to inadvertent drafting error. Pointing out that subsection (a) says the department [shall prepare a publication showing public access routes to fishing sites on public land], Representative Coghill said he didn't necessarily want to add another burden of posting. Number 0633 REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL characterized the bill as straightforward, saying no other fishery in Alaska would have this type of charge and he believes it is a matter of equity. He acknowledged issues relating to cleanup, but said he believes that issue is separate from this particular fee setup. CHAIR FATE noted that available on teleconference to answer questions were personnel from the Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT&PF) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Number 0713 REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG informed members that this was a project he and then-Representative John Davies worked on, on the House side, with regard to determining boundary lines and so forth, since both are avid Chitina fishermen. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL expressed appreciation for that. Number 0842 MS. MOSS, in response to Representative Masek, explained the genesis of Amendment 1. Through discussions with John Bennett, DOT&PF right-of-way officer in the Northern Region - who she said probably has more knowledge than anyone else with regard to this survey - Ms. Moss said it became apparent that perhaps too much wording was being included in the bill. The departments had been under the impression they might be expected to put up more signs than they'd originally planned. Ms. Moss added: They conducted a survey. There are survey markers - monuments - every 0.2 of a mile on the road. And the brochure would refer to these 0.2 monuments, so there would be no question as to where the public land is and where the private land is. There's about $54,000 remaining in that appropriation. They feel they can design the brochure, print the brochure, and have additional money to maybe put up two larger informational signs, one at the pavilion and one at O'Brien Creek. Number 0927 REPRESENTATIVE WOLF noted that the Kenai Peninsula dip net fishery has a "disaster cleanup issue" associated with it. He requested advice on how [the Chitina fishery] takes care of this problem. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL surmised that it will be a question in almost every area that has public access to fisheries. He expressed concern that a single fishery not be singled out, and suggested it should be looked at more broadly. Number 1015 REPRESENTATIVE GATTO asked whether this bill indicates people have been charged for something they shouldn't have had to pay for, for a number of years. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL answered: The land settlement was ... an open discussion. And ... up until last year, when ... Representative Davies and Senator Kelly began the discussion, they did not know exactly where those boundaries were. So it's a work in progress. And the answer is yes, but there was an agreement that there could be trespass, and therefore I think it was appropriate [to have the fee]. At this point, I think, we've settled that issue. Number 1075 REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG expressed appreciation that Representative Coghill has brought this forward, saying this needs to be "cleaned up and taken care of in a lot of ways." He offered his understanding that the point of doing the marking was to give people guidance as to where public access exists. He expressed concern about where that stands now. He also agreed that there should be no permit fee, but said there should be some allocation to pay for campground facilities and cleaning up, and he noted the impact is fairly severe there at times. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL responded, "Certainly, last year we did give the parks some receipt authority, and I think that would fall within this area." He added that the biggest access areas need to be the most clearly defined. He indicated that it is his responsibility to put signs up on his own private property, for example, and offered his expectation of a cooperative effort on both sides. CHAIR FATE noted that although Representative Coghill had to leave the meeting, Ms. Moss would remain to answer questions. He also informed members that someone from Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) was available to answer questions. Number 1336 BYRON WHALEY, Trustee Vice-Chair, Board of Directors, Alaska Outdoor Council (AOC); President, Chitina Dipnetters Association, testified on behalf of AOC in strong support of HB 210, noting that executive director Jessee Vander-Zanden was unable to testify. Mr. Whaley also noted that he is president of the Chitina Dipnetters Association, but said vice president Stan Bloom would testify on behalf of that organization. MR. WHALEY told members that AOC represents the collective membership of about 12,000 Alaskans, many who participate in the Chitina dip net fishery. He said HB 210 is one of AOC's top priorities, and called it timely because a survey of the affected land, completed in 2001, shows that 60 percent of the area utilized is public land and also identifies corridors for access to fishing sites. Suggesting the $25 fee is no longer necessary, he referred to letters in members' packets, one from then-Governor Knowles [to] Chitina Native Corporation dated April 25, 2002, which said ADF&G was considering a proposal to repeal [or reduce] this access fee. MR. WHALEY, still speaking on behalf of AOC, noted that the bill doesn't prohibit private owners from charging for access across their lands. He called this "win-win legislation" and suggested that any funds for services such as outhouses, garbage, and so forth should come from DNR or DOT&PF, as would be expected for other public lands in Alaska. If there is a fee, it should be for those services, he said, not for a personal-use fishing permit fee. He said dipnetters have to buy a sports license; any funds from the sports fishing budget must be used for the sports division, research, and management, rather than for public [services], and that includes the Chitina dip net fishery. Number 1602 REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG asked Mr. Whaley, as president of the Chitina Dipnetters Association, whether he would support a land trade between the state and Ahtna, Incorporated, to eliminate any access issues. MR. WHALEY answered yes, it would be wonderful to have a land trade in kind, depending upon what sort of trade it was, in order to get rid of the access problem. He expressed the need to make sure it would benefit both parties, however. Number 1676 PAUL C. HOLLAND, Member, Alaska Outdoor Council; Member, Chitina Dipnetters Association; Member, Fairness for Chitina Dipnetters, expressed support for the bill insofar as wanting the trespass fee to end. However, he had a difference of opinion on how to handle to private-property issues there. He expressed concern that marking would slow things down, and suggested it should be a separate issue. He also suggested that it has been somewhat of a mistake in the past for the state to represent private [landowners] by collecting the fee and then having to identify where that private land is for the landowner. He suggested those should be separated, but said the main thing is to end the fee. MR. HOLLAND noted that he'd talked with [now-Representative] Guttenberg the previous year, and Representative Guttenberg and Representative Davies had been very sensitive to the private landowners. He then pointed out that the road is closed about one-half mile past O'Brien Creek and that most people walking down to the river cannot get there [that way]: it requires taking a charter down the river and staying below the high-water mark; therefore, it is state land. He also estimated that most dipnetters reach the river through state land, because it is those nearby areas that people will walk down to; he said there are big pieces [of private land] between the road and the river, without paths. MR. HOLLAND, as far as the state's representing private landowners with regard to marking the land, said he didn't know whether that is done in Kenai, where there are private-property issues as well. He suggested to some extent it is incumbent upon private landowners to know where their land is, and if they want no crossing of their land, to put up a fence. He mentioned having a long-term solution, and estimated that this private land is largely worthless in that it is on the side of a cliff and isolated. He therefore agreed that if there would be a fair deal, it should be put into the state's hands. Mr. Holland also asked a DOT&PF representative to comment on short- and long-term ideas about opening up that road. Number 1973 STAN BLOOM, Vice President, Chitina Dipnetters Association; Member, Alaska Outdoor Council, saying is a member of other "sporting clubs" around town as well, informed the committee that this isn't a simple problem with a simple answer. He said [Mr. Whaley] and he have been trying to solve this since the 1970s, attending meetings with the state and Native organizations, for example. He said as long as ADF&G lets 80,000 people fish for free, he can't sympathize, since that number of fishing licenses would bring in $1.2 million. However, he suggested ADF&G shouldn't be in the business of providing outhouses, for example. MR. BLOOM expressed dismay at actions of ADF&G including those relating to repealing the fee; refusing to take "sport" out of the resident license regulation, and instead having a general fishing license; lowering dipnetters' take; spending high amounts of money for less access; and not retaining enough money to monitor its contracts, including those for access and outhouses. He said a subsistence hunter must have a hunting license - even the federal government requires that - and asked why a subsistence user doesn't need a fishing license. He offered to send photographs of "our great services." He also accused [ADF&G's Division of Sport Fish] of not realizing Alaskans don't want to do catch-and-release fishing, but want to eat the fish they catch. Number 2153 MR. BLOOM stated support for repealing the trespass fee, but said there is a better way to resolve the service-fee issue. He offered specific suggestions as follows: If you have to have a service fee, it should go to DNR and let them run the upland area. You should repeal the requirement for a sport [license] for dipnetters and replace it with a personal use/subsistence license for $15. Let [the Division of Sport Fish] do what they want with a sport license. You should require [ADF&G], DNR, and [DOT&PF], along with Native groups and representatives from the ... dipnetters, to come up with a management plan and a plan for making the area some kind of a dip net park [run] by DNR, with appropriate user fees. Dipnetters are going to hate me for this, but the Natives and commercial [users] already do, so what's 10,000 more? You should sunset any change to be in two years, at which [time] the plan must be ready from DNR, [ADF&G, and DOT&PF]. In the meantime, you should keep the $25 fee, but not pay it to the Natives [for access]. Use it to force DNR to build toilets that meet state standards; keep the $25 fee for two years, and that would bring in ... $250,000 a year, and they ought to be able to build toilets and fix the road and do a lot of things with that much money. Have ... DNR build and maintain a boat launch and charge for its use like they do other places. Have [DOT&PF] finish the survey and mark the survey so the dumbest dipnetter easily can tell where he is, at any time. Those little posts at every 0.2 of a mile ain't going to tell you [anything] if you have to measure 936 feet past this post and that's where you can access the river; that's ridiculous. The maps must be of such scale and clarity that even I can tell ... if I am trespassing, without the use of a GPS [Global Positioning System]. Have the state pay a share of the dumpster fee that is caused by the Chitina residents' saving all their trash till the dumpsters come in the summer and then loading them up. Number 2265 MR. BLOOM predicted what might happen if the foregoing suggestions aren't acted upon: We will have to pay ... to buy a sport license, and it'll be about a hundred bucks. We will have to pay a fee for services, and it will be about a hundred bucks. [ADF&G] will be furnishing two outhouses, and they will be the same wooden ones with the doors hanging off now. The legislature will have forgotten us. [ADF&G] will spend our money on sports-fish projects and ignore us. We will war with the Natives on trespass. Troopers will spend their time solving trespass problems and writing tickets for the high crime, if not cutting fish sales off. We will have a poorly marked trail that long ago was abandoned by [DOT&PF] and a 20-year-old brochure nobody can read. When dipnetters reach 25,000, dipnetting will be such a problem that it will be done away with. The commercial fishers who are left will celebrate more than they did when Stan Bloom died. The richest state in the Union will lament that there was nothing they could do about it. The commercial fish board will have made the limit two fish, only one of which can be a king, and you can only keep the king every one in ... four years. CHAIR FATE reminded Mr. Bloom of time constraints. MR. BLOOM concluded by saying DNR has come up with a $27-million plan to put a bicycle trail there. He suggested some of that money be spent instead on fixing up the first 10 miles for dipnetters, to make a place where people are proud to go. Number 2408 AUSTIN MAHALKEY testified that he has been trying for 10 years to get information about the original railroad land there, but has been told by both the state and the federal government that such information doesn't exist. He offered his understanding that one-quarter mile on either side of the railroad belonged to the state prior to the land-settlement Act; he suggested perhaps legislators could obtain that information. He suggested that any fees paid for trespassing on this land is for land that already belongs to the state, and said it all should be refunded. He expressed hope that somebody will get that information to him. Number 2465 CHAIR FATE responded that he would direct staff to look into that. Number 2496 SHARON DANIELS, Business Administrator, Copper Basin Sanitation, told members that her company either was the contractor or supported the contractors that provided sanitary services in the Chitina area for several years. She emphasized the volume of human waste and garbage from the area. For human waste, it amounted to about 5,000 gallons during the 2002 fishing season, and just shy of 6,000 gallons in 2001. For garbage, it totaled about 275 cubic yards [during the 2002 season] that was strictly from the Copper River road or "south of Chitina" road, with an additional 470 [cubic] yards from the rest of the public-use dumpsters in the area, for a total of 744 cubic yards; the total for 2001 from both areas was 642 cubic yards, of which nearly 300 cubic yards came just from the O'Brien Creek road. She asked legislators to keep in mind that this is a lot of waste that must be handled in some way. MS. DANIELS reported that the toilet contract was for twice-a- week service and involved about 180 gallons each time; seven portable toilets were serviced every three or four days. Number 2627 REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG asked whether this contract was adequate or whether a higher frequency was needed. MS. DANIELS answered that it was adequate, and said the toilets weren't fully used. The ones "closest to the people" were used most, whereas those 20 feet away weren't used nearly as much. At no time were all the toilets at full capacity. Number 2669 CHAIR FATE asked whether anyone on teleconference was waiting to testify on this bill; there was no response. Number 2693 GORDY WILLIAMS, Legislative Liaison, Office of the Commissioner, Alaska Department of Fish & Game, reported that there has been a Chitina dip net fee since 1992; it was raised to $25 in 2000 as part of a bill that called for several other things. That was when the fishery went from being personal-use to being a subsistence fishery. That bill also called for the land status in the area to be determined. There was a survey undertaken by [DOT&PF] and direction to the department to try to work out longer-term agreements with the two corporations [Ahtna, Incorporated, and Chitina Native Corporation]. MR. WILLIAMS reported working with the corporations annually but being unable to arrive at more than an annual contract in 2000 and 2001. Last session, he noted, SB 366 was introduced and called for the permit fee to drop to $10, with the intent that the $10 would address waste and garbage pickup in the area; that bill was amended in the Senate Resources Standing Committee so that the fee would be zero after remaining in place for 2002, but didn't receive action by the House at the end of the session. Communications with the corporations during the [legislative] interim weren't productive with regard to arriving at long-term solutions, Mr. Williams noted, adding that discussions are ongoing with folks about those issues. Thus at this point there is no contract in place. MR. WILLIAMS told members although the permit fee under HB 210 is zero, [ADF&G] still would issue permits because that provides discrete information about the fishery. He noted that last year there'd been discussions with [DOT&PF] about how marking would occur and brochures would be prepared, for instance. Because of the timing, the decision was made by the legislature and [ADF&G] to enter into another one-year contract. Although the Native corporations have expressed interest in entering into a three- year contract now, there was an inability to do so until [ADF&G] got some public policy direction on how to proceed. Mr. Williams noted that Mr. Hepler was on teleconference and could address other issues. Number 2867 MR. WILLIAMS pointed out that the fiscal note shows how the $25 fee was broken out: $18 for the corporations, with $10 to Chitina Native Corporation and $8 to Ahtna, Incorporated; $5 for cleanup; and $2 for the department for administration. He added that the fiscal note doesn't reflect additional revenue that may come from the necessity of some people to buy sport-fishing licenses now, and suggested ADF&G will look at those numbers. Number 2912 REPRESENTATIVE GATTO asked whether, prior to the $25 or $10 fee, there ever was a voluntary fee there. MR. WILLIAMS recalled a lot of public support for the $25 fee when it was instituted, included support by the Chitina Dipnetters Association because of the undetermined land status. REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG asked what the point is of having a contract now with the two Native corporations. MR. WILLIAMS answered that last year, as this idea was debated, mixed comments were heard from the public, the corporations, and so forth. TAPE 03-23, SIDE B Number 2989 MR. WILLIAMS continued, "I think you would probably hear from them that they feel there's some obligation from the state for the contracts." He indicated ADF&G is working with the legislature and the administration currently to try to determine the public policy issue. REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG noted that there is no contract currently. If the bill is passed with a zero fee, which he said he supports, and a contract is signed later, he asked whether those contractual obligations can be met somehow with general fund dollars. MR. WILLIAMS said yes, noting that there are restrictions and that Mr. Hepler could address what fish-and-game-type funds could be used. For example, he said, he doesn't believe federal funds can be used for a personal-use fishery. Straight general funds could certainly be used for a contract, he noted. Mr. Williams added: We do have concerns, and we believe that the state does have some responsibilities on the cleanup issue; I think you heard about the volume of waste and whatnot there. And with the fee going to zero, I think there's a recognition that ... that would not provide the current funding source ... for cleanup in the area. And [we] certainly want the legislature to be aware that ... even in the absence of contracts with the corporations, there's going to be costs incurred in that area. And this was the funding source for those. Number 2913 REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG posed a situation in which the fee goes to zero and the contracts have to be paid out of general fund dollars. He asked what the appropriate fee is for cleanup and maintenance of the campgrounds, and who would administer it. MR. WILLIAMS replied: Well, those are discussions we're having amongst the administration, is which division. Last year, I believe, our fiscal note on ... Senate Bill 366 that reduced the fee to $10 indicated that the numbers we have here - the $70,000 or $80,000 that would be collected at a $10 fee, which is what that was last year that we would have "RSAed" [used a reimbursable services agreement] to the ... [Department of] Natural Resources, for them to handle that, either by contract or through their own procedures ... Number 2875 REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG asked whether that would cover the same thing as a contract with a firm such as Copper River Sanitation. MR. WILLIAMS said he guessed that was right. He added that testimony would be heard that the level of services thus far has been at the low end of what some consider to be required. He offered the belief that perhaps additional dollars should be spent toward that end. Number 2852 CHAIR FATE asked Mr. Williams where the belief comes from that cleanup costs will escalate. MR. WILLIAMS replied that DNR, DOT&PF, and ADF&G talked recently via teleconference about these issues. He said that he hadn't personally been there at the fishery [at Chitina], but that people on teleconference could offer their knowledge of how the level of service could be improved with respect to garbage and human waste. CHAIR FATE asked if anyone on teleconference wanted to weigh in. [There was no audible response.] Number 2807 REPRESENTATIVE MASEK asked whether a board has been put together for this area. MR. WILLIAMS noted that the Chitina Dipnetters Association is a private association of people who fish in the area. REPRESENTATIVE MASEK queried, if the bill passed, whether that association or users who fish there would put together a task force to take care of maintenance and operations. Number 2743 MR. WHALEY responded that although his organization could put something together and work on it, he believes it is up to the state - DNR, for example. He expressed concern that if his organization starts doing something like this, it will set a precedent for the rest of the state and force others into the same deal. REPRESENTATIVE MASEK remarked that she'd thought it might be a way to compromise. Number 2715 REPRESENTATIVE WOLF asked whether a person is required to have a sport-fishing license in order to participate in the Chitina dip net fishery. MR. WILLIAMS answered, "You will be this year. The last three years, the fishery has been a subsistence fishery in which a sport-fish license wasn't required." He noted that in either December or January the Board of Fisheries returned it to being a personal-use fishery. Thus a sport-fish license is required. REPRESENTATIVE WOLF recalled that in 2000 and 2001, to his belief, the receipts for sport-fish licenses in Alaska totaled almost $24 million to ADF&G. He asked whether those receipts can go towards the costs of trash and the thousands of gallons of human waste. MR. WILLIAMS deferred to Mr. Hepler. Number 2646 KELLY HEPLER, Director, Division of Sport Fish, Alaska Department of Fish & Game, responded: Fish and game dollars ... can be used that way. We haven't done that in the past. ... There's a number of places that we've actually provided some services to some fisheries, like ... along the road system ... out of Susitna, like at Willow Creek, Caswell, some places like that; these are fairly small fisheries, but they're done more with federal-aid dollars, which means you need to actually have a rod and reel, not a dip net, in your hand. ... And some of the fish and game dollars we used initially to help out, Representative Wolf, in your district down at the mouth of the Kenai, until the City of Kenai took that over and started charging people $10 there; ... then they're on their own at that point. We typically, when we try to help fisheries out, ... it's where we have a land interest or are in partnership with the Department of Natural Resources, Division of Parks [and Outdoor Recreation]. ... It's not done on this kind of a large scale where we don't have a land interest ourselves. I'm not aware, though, technically, of any reason we couldn't use our fish and game dollars. It's not something I like to do, because, obviously, those dollars go to the management and ... what are core functions ... in our division - that's for the research and management of the fisheries. ... We could do it, though. Number 2581 CHAIR FATE asked whether anyone else wished to testify; he then closed public testimony. Number 2530 REPRESENTATIVE MASEK moved to adopt Amendment 1 [text provided previously]; she requested unanimous consent. Number 2516 REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA requested an explanation from Ms. Moss. CHAIR FATE announced that he would treat that as an objection [for discussion purposes]. MS. MOSS explained that it derived from a conversation with John Bennett. She said there'd seemed to be a misunderstanding of what was expected of [DOT&PF], which conducted the survey and was designing a brochure to adequately notify people of where the public access is so that they'd also know where the private access is and could avoid trespassing. She added: They just felt we had too much verbiage in there and preferred [that] the first paragraph would clearly state that what we expect is for them to continue on the road that they're going on, without any new demands. However, they have said, if money is left over, they will put a couple of larger informational signs up, one at [the] pavilion and one at O'Brien Creek. Number 2468 REPRESENTATIVE MASEK noted that money had been appropriated by the 2001 legislation. She asked whether the belief is that the money already appropriated isn't going to be enough for signage. MS. MOSS replied that the money was appropriated for surveying and placing brochures. She indicated the survey monuments will serve to mark where the public land is. She added that [DOT&PF], on its own, has said that if there is extra money, it will go to the further effort of putting up informational signs with maps so that people will have no doubt where the public access is. Number 2419 REPRESENTATIVE MASEK renewed her motion to adopt Amendment 1. Number 2409 REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA removed her objection. REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG surmised that the whole issue will go away if a successful land swap is negotiated [between the state and the two Native corporations]. CHAIR FATE agreed that it would be a whole new scenario. Number 2387 CHAIR FATE asked whether there was any further objection to adopting Amendment 1. There being no objection, it was so ordered. Number 2378 REPRESENTATIVE MASEK emphasized that the bill doesn't preclude private landowners from charging for access across their lands, should the public wish to use that method of access to the river. Number 2318 REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG announced that he would be working on an amendment to be considered in the House Finance Committee with regard to a fee to cover maintenance of the facilities and campgrounds, which isn't addressed currently. MS. MOSS indicated the sponsor would be working on that as well, and suggested doing so together. Number 2286 REPRESENTATIVE MASEK moved to report HB 210, as amended, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes; she requested unanimous consent. There being no objection, CSHB 210(RES) was reported from the House Resources Standing Committee.