Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/13/1995 08:05 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
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.