Legislature(2005 - 2006)SENATE FINANCE 532

03/30/2005 01:00 PM RESOURCES


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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
*+ HJR 16 OPPOSE UN LAND DESIGNATIONS IN ALASKA TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
+ HB 198 AQUATIC FARMING TELECONFERENCED
Moved CSHB 198(RES) Out of Committee
*+ HJR 9 URGE CONGRESS HONOR EXXON VALDEZ JUDGMENT TELECONFERENCED
Moved Out of Committee
+ HB 174 FISHING PERMIT AND VESSEL LICENSE FEES TELECONFERENCED
Scheduled But Not Heard
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
HB 198-AQUATIC FARMING                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR SAMUELS announced that the  next order of business would                                                               
be HOUSE  BILL NO. 198 "An  Act relating to aquatic  farming; and                                                               
providing for an effective date."                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
JOS  GOVAARS, Staff  to Representative  Jim Elkins,  said HB  198                                                               
amends Alaska's Aquatic Farming Act  and will allow aquatic farms                                                               
to operate  in compliance with  a recent supreme  court decision.                                                               
It  will  permit shellfish  farmers  to  sell insignificant  wild                                                               
shellfish  stocks, he  explained.   Alaska Department  of Fish  &                                                               
Game  (ADF&G)  opened a  commercial  dive  fishery on  designated                                                               
mariculture  sites to  remove the  wild geoducks,  which prepares                                                               
the  sites   for  future  mariculture.     He  noted   that  this                                                               
legislation  is a  compromise between  industry  members and  the                                                               
administration.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER asked about the taxation.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
1:50:20 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JULIE DECKER, Executive Director,  Southeast Alaska Regional Dive                                                               
Fisheries  Association  (SARDFA),  Wrangell,  said HB  198  is  a                                                               
result of a  supreme court decision, which forced  the parties to                                                               
come  to the  table and  create a  compromise.   The levy,  which                                                               
Representative Kapsner  referred to  as a tax,  should be  set in                                                               
regulations  because  this is  a  new  way to  approach  resource                                                               
management.   If the legislature  feels it is appropriate  to set                                                               
the levy  in statute, she  said SARDFA would  like it as  high as                                                               
possible.   The  court  said the  state  cannot hand  significant                                                               
stocks to an individual.  To  comply with the court decision, the                                                               
levy would need  to be high enough  to make sure there  is no net                                                               
profit  going to  the  farmer, she  said.   The  farmers will  be                                                               
allowed to clear land to prepare for their farming activities.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
1:52:33 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
ROBERT  HARTLEY, Oyster  Farmer and  President, Alaska  Shellfish                                                               
Growers Association,  Homer, said HB  198 is an enabling  bill to                                                               
allow the shellfish  industry to go forward.   Dive fishermen and                                                               
the state are  in agreement with this legislation, he  added.  He                                                               
said that  without the bill, the  geoduck farms will be  gone and                                                               
the Seward  hatchery will  close, because the  geoduck seed  is a                                                               
vital part of the shellfish hatchery business plan.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
1:54:08 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
DAVID BEDFORD,  Deputy Commissioner, Alaska Department  of Fish &                                                               
Game, said  he was one  of the principles involved  in developing                                                               
"this compromise."   He said  Alaska has been a  poor environment                                                               
for the development  of geoduck farms, which he thinks  will be a                                                               
productive  industry.     The  superior  court   said  the  state                                                               
constitution bars  ADF&G from  transferring a  significant amount                                                               
of common property  resource to farmers.  The  supreme court said                                                               
there  is  no  statutory   authority  to  transfer  insignificant                                                               
amounts.   HB  198 remedies  the  problem.   It allows  shellfish                                                               
farmers  to  harvest insignificant  amounts  of  wild stock  from                                                               
their farm  sites, he  said.  For  geoducks, ADF&G  staff believe                                                               
12,000 pounds  per farm site should  be considered insignificant.                                                               
Full public regulatory review will  revisit this number, he said.                                                               
Other elements  of HB  198 are  important, he  added.   Section 2                                                               
reiterates the  superior courts decision  that the state  may not                                                               
authorize  a  taking of  significant  stocks  of shellfish  by  a                                                               
farmer, and surveys will be required by biologists.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
1:57:35 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.  BEDFORD  said  that  Section  3 of  HB  198  creates  a  new                                                               
authority  for the  commissioner of  ADF&G to  allow a  farmer to                                                               
harvest a  significant amount of  wild stock with  an appropriate                                                               
levy--not a tax,  but a right to  harvest.  He said  that this is                                                               
new ground,  and advised  that the  greater the  compensation the                                                               
public  will receive,  the more  it  will be  acceptable for  the                                                               
exclusive  harvest.   Whatever price  was charged,  farmers would                                                               
need to be somewhere below the break-even point.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
2:00:01 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. BEDFORD said  Section 5 is important, because  ADF&G does not                                                               
allow the public  access to proprietary information,  but it will                                                               
report to  the public the  total amount  of shellfish taken.   He                                                               
said  another section  requires farmers  to leave  the amount  of                                                               
stock that they take when their permit is over.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
2:01:33 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR SAMUELS said there is  talk of an amendment that defines                                                               
an insignificant number.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR. BEDFORD  said ADF&G prefers  to set the amount  in regulation                                                               
because that process allows for more science and public input.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
2:02:36 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KAPSNER  suggested  that  it is  also  easier  to                                                               
change regulations.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MR. BEDFORD said it is true, but there would be another hearing.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER asked about the level of a levy.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR.  BEDFORD said  the  principle criteria  is  what is  adequate                                                               
compensation to the public for a common property resource.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KAPSNER said  she doesn't  understand how  farmed                                                               
animals can be a common property resource.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR. BEDFORD answered  that in aquatic farming,  there are natural                                                               
stock already there.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
2:04:59 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER asked  how it is lucrative if  a farmer is                                                               
assessed a 50 percent levy.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. BEDFORD  said there is  no levy on  their stock, only  on the                                                               
natural stock.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
2:05:36 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  CRAWFORD asked  the difference  between wild  and                                                               
farmed stock.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. BEDFORD said they are easily identified by age and size.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
2:07:16 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
PAUL  FUHS,   Pacific  Aquaculture  Caucus  (PAC)   Alaska,  said                                                               
shellfish farming  will be a  good industry.  One  five-acre farm                                                               
can produce  as much  as the total  commercial harvest  of Alaska                                                               
wild stock  in one year.   It will help the  wild fishery because                                                               
it creates  a year-round market,  he said.   He said  the tension                                                               
between  wild harvesters  and  farmers is  that  farmers want  to                                                               
establish farms  on good habitat,  which means there  are already                                                               
wild stock there.  There is  no commercial fishery on a site with                                                               
only 100,000 pounds  of wild stock.  He said  the legislature was                                                               
fed up  with ADF&G  for not  allowing farms,  so it  passed House                                                               
Bill 208.  He said there are  two amendments.  The one from Lance                                                               
Nelson in the Department of Law is a good amendment, he opined.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR.  FUHS  said  he  will  leave it  up  to  the  legislature  to                                                               
determine whether  to set 12,000  pounds in policy, but,  "I wish                                                               
we  could say  that we  had  more faith  in [ADF&G]  to stick  by                                                               
12,000 pounds, or  not attach other things to it,  like how close                                                               
it is  to another fishery  or other  things that you  could never                                                               
define.  My clients are going to  be fine with their farm, but if                                                               
you want this to go into an  industry and have other people to be                                                               
able to have farms sites  where there's insignificant stocks, you                                                               
either need to put it in as 12,000  pounds or keep a close eye on                                                               
what [ADF&G]  is doing.  Eventually,  I think we may  come to the                                                               
conclusion  you really  need to  move this  to the  Department of                                                               
Agriculture in [the  Department of Natural Resources]."   He said                                                               
that ADF&G has a natural hostility to farming.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
2:11:29 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD asked the value of 12,000 pounds.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR. FUHS said 12,000 pounds would wholesale at $100,000.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX asked, "Do these things move around?"                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. FUHS  said geoduck clams live  in one place about  three feet                                                               
under the sea floor and filter 80 gallons of water a day.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
2:13:36 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. FUHS said he doesn't know anyone who is opposed to HB 198.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
2:14:11 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ELKINS offered Amendment 1, as follows:                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
     Page 1, line 9, delete "acquire ownership of"                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Hearing no objection, Amendment 1 carries.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
2:14:58 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR RAMRAS moved  to pass HB 198 as  amended with individual                                                               
recommendations.  There being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                

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