Legislature(1995 - 1996)

04/13/1995 08:05 AM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
 HB  91 - MARINE PARKS ADDITIONS/CHANGES                                     
                                                                               
 CHAIR JEANNETTE JAMES announced the first item on the agenda was HB           
 91 by Representative Robinson.  She called on Representative                  
 Robinson to provide the sponsor statement for this bill.                      
                                                                               
 Number 025                                                                  
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE CAREN ROBINSON expressed her appreciation for the              
 committee hearing this bill.  She stated this bill was not                    
 originally her idea, but was brought forward at the request of the            
 community of Juneau.  She expected that many of the committee                 
 members may have already voted on this bill, as it passed through             
 the House last year, before getting held in the Senate Rules                  
 Committee.  This bill would designate 13 islands in the Juneau area           
 state marine parks.  These islands are located in Lynn Canal and              
 are currently public lands.  They have been determined as                     
 unsuitable for real estate or resource development.  She said in              
 1977, these islands were nominated for selection by the city/                 
 borough of Juneau for recreational purposes.  In 1989, the state              
 selected the Channel Islands from the federal government under the            
 Alaska Statehood Act.  Designation of these islands as parks                  
 requires legislative action, but the city and borough of Juneau has           
 identified protection of these islands as a priority in the Juneau            
 Coastal Management Plan and the Juneau State Land Plan.                       
 Establishing these lands as a state park would protect the quality            
 of their future recreational use.  She stated the boundaries of the           
 park would be at the 20 fathom line around each island.  It is                
 essential to provide a management plan to protect recreational use            
 to accommodate future needs.  Only state park management can                  
 consolidate water, intertidal, and upland uses in a single entity             
 with adequate enforcement authority to protect and provide for the            
 safe uses of these resources.  Creation of Juneau Channel Island              
 State Marine Park is urgently needed and would be an outstanding              
 addition to Alaska state parks, by providing an island complex                
 unique to the state park system.  She urged the committee to pass             
 this bill on to the next committee and stated there were many                 
 residents from the Juneau to testify on this bill.                            
                                                                               
 Number 092                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES asked if there were any questions from the committee              
 for Representative Robinson.                                                  
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE JOE GREEN verified that one of those to testify was            
 from the Department of Natural Resources.                                     
                                                                               
 TED MERRELL, Member, Juneau Area Parks Advisory Board, stated he              
 was testifying in support of HB 91.  He said he had lived in the              
 Juneau area for 32 years and had used these islands every year for            
 recreational use.  He can remember having the beaches mostly to               
 himself, but as the community of Juneau has tripled in size, so has           
 the demand for these islands for recreational purposes.  He said              
 that currently there was increasing vandalism and littering of                
 these islands, because there was currently no management system in            
 place.  He thought passage of HB 91 would allow a minimal level of            
 management to be put in place, under the Division of Parks.  He               
 felt this would initially consist of some signs and rules to be               
 complied with voluntarily.  He also thought further degradation of            
 these islands would be halted until a long-range management plan              
 and minimal facilities could be established in the future.  He                
 argued more and more waterfront was being developed and placed off            
 limits to public recreation each year, and so urged passage of this           
 bill.                                                                         
                                                                               
 Number 143                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN PORTER asked why if these islands were                   
 selected by the city and borough of Juneau, then why doesnt the               
 community of Juneau establish these islands as municipal parks.               
                                                                               
 MR. MERRELL stated he was not familiar with why this had not been             
 done.                                                                         
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON thought that by law this had to be done by            
 legislative action.  She explained that testimony would be coming             
 from both a local municipal parks board and a Juneau area state               
 parks board.                                                                  
                                                                               
 SANDY WILLIAMS, Member, Juneau Planning Commission, stated he was             
 a 35 year resident of Alaska and a retired state employee.  He                
 reiterated the city and borough of Juneau does support HB 91.  He             
 thought the reason they did not establish a municipal park was that           
 they had selected all of the land they were allowed under the                 
 selection process.  He said he did not view this bill as a lock               
 up bill, but argued this would allow generations in the future to             
 use these lands for recreational purposes.  By putting them under             
 the management of the Division of Parks, they would be managed with           
 volunteer help at no added expense to the state.  He envisioned a             
 future with 50,000 residents of Juneau and felt these islands would           
 be an attribute to meeting the community's recreational needs.  He            
 thought the Juneau area was going to need these types of facilities           
 to maintain its quality of life with its growing population.  Thus,           
 he saw this bill as an opportunity for future generations to enjoy            
 the quality of life that Juneau residents do today.  He offered to            
 answer any questions.                                                         
                                                                               
 Number 218                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES asked what would be the situation if the legislature              
 did not pass this bill.                                                       
                                                                               
 MR. WILLIAMS thought these islands would continue to be used for              
 recreational purposes, but would not have any coordinated effort              
 for maintaining the cleanliness and quality of the area.  He                  
 thought that by putting them under the Division of Parks, there               
 would be a coordinated management effort.                                     
                                                                               
 Number 242                                                                    
                                                                               
 BILL GARRY, Area Superintendent, Division of Parks and Outdoor                
 Recreation, Southeast Area, Department of Natural Resources, said             
 he was here to express the departments support for this bill and              
 to answer any questions from the committee.  He stated the reason             
 they had given this bill a zero fiscal note was that they felt they           
 could manage this area with volunteer assistance.  He thought they            
 could manage these islands for recreational use better than the               
 Division of Lands, who he said did not even have a boat to get to             
 them.  He stated they would be managed under Title 41 of Alaska               
 statutes, which allows the islands to be under cohesive management            
 of the waters, tidelands, and uplands.  He reiterated that the city           
 and borough of Juneau had selected their entitlement of lands and             
 these lands would exceed their allowed amount, meaning they would             
 have to give up much of their core land downtown.                             
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES asked if he could explain the map of the park behind              
 him.                                                                          
                                                                               
 MR. GARRY explained the blue lines approximated the 20 fathom line            
 around the islands to be included in this bill.  He said whereas              
 most park borders are done by description of sections, lines, etc.,           
 it was felt the 20 fathom line would be easier for most boaters to            
 know the boundaries of the park.  Thus, the bill was amended last             
 year to designate the boundaries of the park in this fashion.  He             
 said the bill would also amend the Shelter Island State Marine                
 Park, by redesignating its boundaries as the 20 fathom line.  He              
 mentioned that part of Shelter Island would be retained by the                
 United States Forest Service and would not be selected by the                 
 state.                                                                        
                                                                               
 Number 309                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked if he anticipated any amenities being              
 added to the park, which would cost the state extra money in the              
 future.  He noted the bill currently had a zero fiscal note.                  
                                                                               
 MR. GARRY said he did not anticipate adding any facilities, at                
 least not in the near future.  He stated they wanted to expose the            
 people to a better educational system of how to use the beaches,              
 pick up their litter, and generally how to maintain the park during           
 use.  He thought good use would preclude abuse of the park area.              
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER verified the Channel Islands were those shown           
 on the map and that they were not selected by the city and borough            
 of Juneau.                                                                    
                                                                               
 MR. GARRY agreed, saying these islands were selected by the state.            
 He stated the city and borough has encouraged that selection.                 
                                                                               
 Number 347                                                                    
                                                                               
 SUE SCHRADER, Member, Juneau Kayak Club, supported HB 91.  She said           
 she had personally paddled to every one of the listed islands.  She           
 wanted to point out that these islands were pretty much accessible            
 from the road system within a few hours of paddling.  She also                
 stated they were all very small, which made them unsuitable for any           
 type of resource development.  She said she was routinely running             
 into more visitors to these islands each season.  She commented               
 that having lived in the Puget Sound area, where 91 percent of the            
 coastline was in private ownership, she could attest to the value             
 of having public beaches accessible to everyone.                              
                                                                               
 Number 376                                                                    
                                                                               
 AMY SKILBRED, Representative, Juneau Audubon Society, stated the              
 organization supported placing these islands into a state park.               
 She argued these islands are used for recreational purposes and               
 will continue to be in the future.  She thought if they were placed           
 in a state park setting, then groups such as theirs would volunteer           
 to help manage these islands and the park.  They thought that                 
 placing these islands in a marine park was the wisest use of them.            
                                                                               
 GAIL BILLS, Member, Juneau Area State Board of Parks, said she was            
 a resident of Juneau for 20 years.  She mentioned that should the             
 Division of Lands continue to manage these islands, they do not               
 have legal authority to insure they are being used properly.  She             
 said she wanted to make a plea for cheapo camping facilities for              
 families in Juneau.  She stated that you could take your children             
 to these islands and really feel like youve gone somewhere.  She              
 did not think this was an effort to lock up lands and pointed out             
 there were already numerous cabins for sale on a constant basis.              
 She felt that by putting these islands into a park setting would              
 help to maintain them better for recreational use by the residents            
 of Juneau.                                                                    
                                                                               
 Number 435                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES noted that Representative Ogan had arrived about 20               
 minutes earlier.                                                              
                                                                               
 CLIFF LOBAUGH, Resident of Juneau, stated his surprise that this              
 legislation had not passed the legislature already.  He felt it was           
 a waste of time to have this bill referred to so many committees in           
 the House and Senate, when there was such a consensus from the                
 residents of Juneau.  He thought there should be no concern about             
 any fiscal impact on the state, saying that if you put any                    
 facilities on them, they would float away at a 20 foot tide.  He              
 said the state and borough had already disposed of all of the                 
 islands large enough for private development.  He argued the only             
 opposition to this bill was from the legislature, who kept                    
 postponing the passage of this bill.  He thought more money would             
 be spent on these public hearings than on the costs for this                  
 proposed park.  He said there were several organizations who had              
 already pledged to help maintain these islands as parks, especially           
 the Boy Scouts.  He argued this bill should have been passed                  
 several years ago.  He mentioned the largest of these islands were            
 Shelter Island, Benjamin Island, and Coghlan.                                 
                                                                               
 Number 494                                                                    
                                                                               
 NANCY WATERMAN, Representative, Parks and Recreation Advisory Board           
 Committee, Borough of Juneau Assembly, wanted to express the                  
 support of the committee for HB 91.                                           
                                                                               
 Number 500                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES asked if there was anyone else who wished to testify.             
 Hearing none, she asked for a motion from the committee to pass               
 this bill on to the next committee.                                           
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER said he did not intend to object to this bill           
 passing out of committee, but wanted to mention he heard a lot of             
 contradictory testimony.  He thought there seemed to be a lot of              
 expectations about what the state was going to do to assist in                
 halting the degradation of these recreational sites, but there was            
 also a zero fiscal note.  He argued it could not be both ways.  He            
 thought if this area was to be maintained by volunteers, then why             
 not just do this and not expect the state to take responsibility              
 for what will eventually be fiscal responsibility for a new park.             
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON mentioned the numerous letters of support             
 for this bill from the Alaska Outdoor Council and others.  She                
 emphasized she had no doubt that the community of Juneau would take           
 full responsibility for the maintenance of this park.  She stated             
 she had already talked to volunteer organizations who pledged to              
 help maintain this area as a park facility.  She reiterated these             
 lands were already being used for recreational use and they were              
 just proposing to place them under the appropriate agency with the            
 authority and statutes to maintain them.  They thought there would            
 be considerable cooperation with local organizations to help                  
 maintain these lands for recreational use indefinitely.  If this              
 bill fails to pass, they will continue to be used as they are and             
 the community will continue to come back every year to ask for them           
 to be redesignated as state park lands.  She pointed out that the             
 legislature had just approved a similar situation for the community           
 of Ketchikan.  She also stated that supporters of this bill                   
 understood that the legislature was serious about cutting the                 
 budget and she pledged to bring back pictures of the volunteers               
 cleaning up the area this summer.                                             
                                                                               
 Number 550                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN expressed his concern to Mr. Garry that once             
 this land is made into a state park, there would be tremendous                
 pressure on the Park Service to add amenities.  Thus, he was                  
 wondering if the zero fiscal note was really accurate.                        
                                                                               
 MR. GARRY responded that user-fees were not practical, as the                 
 Division of Parks would then have to provide services to the park.            
 He thought it was appropriate to try to continue the use as it is             
 currently, combined with an education program to teach people how             
 to make better use of the islands.  He thought the advantages would           
 be that they already have a working system with the volunteer                 
 organizations in the community and have a legal system in place to            
 help prevent abuse of the facilities.  He stated he would not                 
 disagree that if they had to occupy the islands to maintain the               
 park, it would cost money.  He thought it was more likely that they           
 would just need to put up a few signs and educate on the wise use             
 of the area.  He predicted this would cost under $1000, which they            
 could absorb within their current budget.  If necessary, they had             
 the option to charge for day use of the park.                                 
                                                                               
 Number 606                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN stated he was not advocating they charge for             
 use of this facility, as he could see this area did not fit the               
 normal situation of parks where you could charge at the gate.  He             
 thought it was more reasonable that the current type of use would             
 continue, which made Representative Porters question more                     
 applicable of why then is it necessary to change the current                  
 designation of the islands.  If you are planning to do more, then             
 why not a fiscal note.  He stated he could not help but to think              
 this would cost the state more money.                                         
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES stated she shared the same concerns as her colleagues             
 about the budget and had some questions based on her assumptions              
 about the zero fiscal note and from some of the testimony given.              
 She asked Mr. Garry how many staff members he had working for him.            
                                                                               
 MR. GARRY replied he had 12 positions for the entire Southeast                
 region, 6 full-time and 6 seasonal employees.                                 
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES asked if he was active with the volunteer parks                   
 programs.                                                                     
                                                                               
 MR. GARRY said they were and listed several examples.                         
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES mentioned there was some considerable reductions in the           
 budget for the Division of Parks.  She asked if any of those                  
 reductions would affect him in the Southeast area.                            
                                                                               
 MR. GARRY responded he was not aware of any parks in the Juneau               
 area that would be shut down as a result of budget cuts.  He said             
 he was not the best person to discuss these budget cuts, but was              
 not aware of any that would affect the Juneau area.                           
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES stated her assumption was that when he was saying there           
 would be extra duties, but the division could absorb them, that               
 there was a little room in their budget.  She pointed out though,             
 that with budget cuts, there isnt a lot of room before you end up             
 having to reduce staff.  She said she did not share some of the               
 fears about extra costs, because she knew of examples in Interior             
 Alaska, where private organizations volunteered to take care of               
 some of the responsibilities of maintaining various parks.  She               
 could visualize that similar organizations could be developed                 
 within the community of Juneau.  She thought it could be guaranteed           
 that the state budget would be decreasing and not growing.  Thus,             
 she thought it would be pretty embarrassing for the Division of               
 Parks to request more money next year, after testifying that they             
 would not be incurring any extra expense as a result of turning               
 these islands into a state park.  She was not anticipating this               
 would happen, because of the testimony given.                                 
                                                                               
 Number 668                                                                    
                                                                               
 MR. GARRY agreed they would not be asking for any additional money            
 or positions.  He said he felt comfortable taking on responsibility           
 for these islands with the offered volunteer assistance for                   
 maintaining them.                                                             
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES asked if there were any other questions or comments               
 from the committee.                                                           
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE SCOTT OGAN asked if there were any resolutions of              
 support from the city and borough of Juneau.                                  
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON replied that there were and also mentioned            
 that they had support from the Alaska Outdoor Council.  She                   
 reiterated that this bill pretty much had a consensus from the                
 community of Juneau.  She also mentioned that with regard to added            
 facilities, she had heard the opposite from the community that they           
 wanted to preserve these islands in their natural state for                   
 recreational use.                                                             
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES commented that she did have concern about the possible            
 necessity of restrooms and garbage facilities.  She thought this              
 could also be accomplished by volunteer support.                              
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN apologized for arriving late and asked who                
 currently owned these islands.                                                
                                                                               
 MR. GARRY replied that the uplands had just been transferred from             
 the Bureau of Land Management to the state.  Thus, all of the land            
 was now owned by the state of Alaska.                                         
                                                                               
 TAPE 95-48, SIDE B                                                            
 Number 000                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN discussed a recent trip he had taken to the San           
 Juan islands and said he was impressed.  He asked if they should              
 not consider some of the larger islands for development and the               
 growth of Juneau.                                                             
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON answered that he had missed this testimony,           
 but that these were really small islands, and the lands suitable              
 for sale to the private sector had already been sold.  She stated             
 most of these islands were really steep mountainous territory.                
 Thus, she stated the best use of these islands were for parks.                
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES asked if there were any other questions or comments               
 from the committee.  Hearing none, she asked for a motion to pass             
 this bill to the next committee.                                              
                                                                               
 Number 066                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ED WILLIS moved that the committee pass HB 91 out of           
 committee with attached fiscal notes and individual                           
 recommendations.                                                              
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES asked if there were any objections.  Hearing none, the            
 bill passed out of committee.  She stated the next bill on the                
 agenda was HB 218.                                                            
                                                                               

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