Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/29/1995 01:14 PM TRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 91 - MARINE PARKS ADDITIONS/CHANGES Number 013 REPRESENTATIVE CAREN ROBINSON, Sponsor, introduced HB 91 and stated it was heard before the legislature last year and passed the House, but died in the Senate Rules Committee. She said Representative Kim Elton, Co-sponsor, was present. She stated HB 91 was not created by her or Representative Elton, but the community of Juneau. The community had requested that it be brought before the legislators in order to obtain the designation of the 13 islands in the general areas as a state marine park. Representative Robinson read the following Sponsor Statement into the record: "HB 91 designates 13 islands in the Juneau area as a state marine park. The islands included in this parcel are located in Lynn Canal. The lands are currently held in public domain; none are under private ownership. These lands have been determined as unsuitable for real estate or resource development. "In 1977 the islands were nominated for selection by the city and borough of Juneau for recreation purposes. In 1989 the state selected the Channel Islands from the federal government under the Alaska Statehood Act. Designation of these lands requires legislative action. Both the city and the state have identified protection of the islands as a priority in the Juneau Coastal Management Plan. A previous bill, introduced during the last legislative session, passed the House only to die in the Senate Rules Committee. "Establishing the islands as a state park would preserve the quality of existing and future recreational use. All existing lawful uses, including fishing, trapping and hunting are preserved under statute. The boundaries of the park would be at the 20-fathom line around each island. It is essential to institute a management system to preserve the existing recreational use and to accommodate future needs. Only State Park management can consolidate water, intertidal and upland uses into a single entity with adequate enforcement authority to protect as well as provide for safe use of these resources. "Creation of the Juneau Channel Islands 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. "Thank you for your consideration. I urge your support of House Bill 91." Number 071 CHAIRMAN DAVIS thanked Representative Robinson. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said the committee should have a letter from the Alaska Outdoor Council and a letter from the mining industry with the original bill that passed the House last year. She also called attention to a resolution the committee should have from the Juneau Borough Assembly supporting HB 91. Number 085 CHAIRMAN DAVIS indicated there was a bill that passed the legislature dealing with similar issues on the Kenai River within his district. This was a local issue and had a key benefit to the local area. He looked at the issues presented in HB 91 as a local issue and suggested they should be presented as such. He said the issue has statewide impact as well. REPRESENTATIVE TOM BRICE asked if the islands are within the boundaries of the city and borough of Juneau, and if there has been any discussion of the state deeding them over to the city and borough and letting Juneau do with it as they will? REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON explained there is a representative from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) present to answer appropriate questions. REPRESENTATIVE KIM ELTON, Co-sponsor of HB 91, explained he grew up in the local area and fished off of the islands. He stated as he got older he became further a field. He continued to explain he would start fishing on Coghlan Island and worked his way further out. He also has hunted on some of the islands. He said the reason he was flattered to be asked to co-sponsor HB 91 because it presents an opportunity for other young children in our community to do what he had done. It provides an opportunity for people to use these islands the same way he has used them. He appreciated the committee's point of view of it being a community issue. He noted the sponsor was very careful to ensure that they were speaking on behalf of the community. He added they had many individuals and groups approach them with concerns on the future of the islands. He stated he hopes this time we make it over that final threshold. Number 147 TED MERRELL, Retired Fishery Biologist, Auke Bay Laboratory, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and resident of Juneau for over 38 years, said he supported HB 91. He added he was a member of the Juneau Area Parks Citizen Advisory Board (JAPCAB), but was here to testify on behalf of himself. He explained his wife and three children came to the area in 1956. One of the first things they did was to buy a 14-foot skiff and a five horsepower Johnson outboard motor so they could access some of the islands around Auke Bay such as Coghlan, Suedla and Battleship Island, where they often went for picnics, clam digging and camping. He stated he now has a bigger boat and still continues to visit all the islands and enjoys to fish around them every year. He explained when he first came to the area some 30 years ago he would go out on a nice weekend and have his pick of beaches and have them all to himself for the entire weekend. Over the years because of the growing population, island recreation has become more popular. He noted most of the beaches are utilized by people having parties. The beaches are reaching a saturated level with the heavy use they have been receiving in recent times. There are growing problems with liter, human waste and several tons of rust. He noted two years ago on Coghlan Island someone left their camp fire burning, the fire got into the undergrowth and destroyed several large trees. He remarked this was becoming more of a problem and urged the committee to pass HB 91. He emphasized his concern for a basic management program to be put into effect to ensure the islands are not spoiled by overuse. Mr. Merrell requested the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, Department of Natural Resource to devise the best possible mechanism for instituting some kind of basic management system for the parks. BILL GARY, Southeast Area Superintendent, Department of Parks & Outdoor Recreation, Department of Natural Resources, indicated he was in attendance to answer questions the committee might have over the course of this hearing. He said the department's position is in support of this legislation. Number 209 CHAIRMAN DAVIS asked Mr. Gary if he was familiar with the brochure (Proposal) presented to the committee. He also asked if the department agrees with some of the presentations that are stated in this brochure. (indisc.) is in agreement with, but in the long term management (indisc.). Chairman Davis noted that commercial use is probably one of the key concerns that people might have. He asked Mr. Gary to describe the commercial uses he might see envisioned or approved under a plan. He asked if this plan might designate specific commercial uses. Number 235 MR. GARY felt that this refers to the framework within state parks of being able to do these things in a way that the Division of Land is not able to. This states that they may need to be addressed, because they are predicting more and more use coming over the horizon. It does not suggest that this is what we are going to do, it merely states the possibilities. He made reference to some commercial permitted guiding companies that are currently applying to the Division of Land for a transfer of their permits that they had last summer, because now it is state land and previously it was forest service land. The Division of Land will have to address the issues of whether they should have overnight facilities or just day use facilitates and related concerns. He said they are not used to handling those kinds of details. He stated they usually go to him for advice. He said he would advise them; however, they don't have that regulatory framework and experience that the Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation has. CHAIRMAN DAVIS called attention to the sponsor statement and the mentioned of the 20 fathom depth line. He saw these issues getting into Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) authority although maybe just on a legal basis and not on a practical basis. Number 265 MR. GARY explained the overall statute for state marine parks specifically states that we do not have any control over ADF&G matters in this area. The boundary is a suggestion that came out of a Senate Resources Committee meeting rather than going to an (indisc.) description which is the jagged line that follows nothing real. Most fisherman have fathometers and would know better with a fathometer than anything else where they were in relation to some landmark. REPRESENTATIVE EILEEN MACLEAN inquired as to why only part of Shelter Island was being designated. MR. GARY explained the balance of the island is actually still in federal ownership, that being the U.S. Forest Service. There is some state land in the southern tip that has already been disposed of. He indicated the only disposable and buildable land has already been sold off. REPRESENTATIVE BILL WILLIAMS asked who was it sold to. MR. GARY indicated he could not remember if it was through a lottery system or some other sale, but it was disposed of through a normal disposal program of the state. Number 312 REPRESENTATIVE WILLIAMS asked "along those lines are those people represented here today..." He added with a state park next to you there is so many restrictions and wondered how this would affect .... REPRESENTATIVE BRICE interjected and asked if the proposed state park lands would be next to the federal parks. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON thought they would prefer to be adjacent to a federal park because they don't get to develop it. CHAIRMAN DAVIS interjected and noted it would probably be hard to speak for someone who is not here as to what they would prefer. He added it was a good point and that would be the key question. He asked Mr. Gary if he could address some of these issues. MR. GARY referred to a map of the Channel Islands and explained the federal ownership was basically everything lapsed down to a line that designated the boundaries, which consisted of a mile and a half of forest service land still there before they would come to any kind of park designation. He indicated there were some developments on parts of the coast of Shelter Island but he was not aware of any conflicts regarding this. REPRESENTATIVE WILLIAMS referred to the zero fiscal note that accompanies HB 91 and inquired as to how the Department of Natural Resources plans to manage the parks. Number 315 MR. GARY explained their first intent was to try and find a good education system. He felt it would cost under $1,000. It would be realistic to say that there really is no additional money to this. He added they will attempt to put signs in the heavily used areas and on the boat launch areas. He would then educate people and have a system of volunteer groups go out and do a lot of the work themselves. He mentioned the Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation has the personnel and a skiff which is more than the Division of Land has. He said they do have an existing marine park on Shelter Island. The department goes to the island a couple times a year to pick up litter. He said this spring the department is organizing a "Trails Day" event to help clean up Portland Island. He predicted there will be some cost, but felt confident that the cost would not be so much as to warrant a red flag of a fiscal note. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON stated the committee will be hearing testimony from the Juneau Area State Parks Advisory Board (JASPAB). She mentioned they do have programs to help bring volunteers together and have done this in the past. She added they plan to continue providing this service. ALLEN WALKER, Private Consultant, Arctic Associates International, and retired Coast Guard Officer, stated he was speaking on behalf of himself. He stated he considered himself to be pro-development while maintaining an environmental sensitivity and a long range view towards sustainable development. He said over the past three decades he has lived around and observed numerous coastal areas through out the U.S., including many of the Alaska coastal regions. He indicated that Alaska possessed some of the more unique ecosystems found anywhere in the world. He noted HB 91 would help preserve a small portion of one of those ecosystems. HB 91 would also provide for the use and enjoyment by current residents and visitors, while helping to ensure that future generations have the same opportunity. There is a current trend in many areas of the U.S. to restore wetlands, green space and localized ecosystems to predevelopment status. He indicated that is a difficult, time-consuming and costly process and is being undertaken by nongovernmental organizations, corporations and municipalities. Much of this is done through litigation, forcing these issues. HB 91 would be one preemptive step to avoid attempts at costly and sometimes futile restoration efforts in the future. As Juneau continues to grow, pressure to develop the islands proposed in HB 91 will increase. He continued to explain even though we have heard testimony that there is no real estate or commercial use feasible for the islands, pressures continue to grow for privatization. If the islands were transferred to private ownership or development for commercial purposes, they would essentially be locked up and rendered inaccessible for many of Juneau's citizens. MR. WALKER explained these islands are nearby and are a reasonably accessible resource for many who have not been able to purchase their own remote property or afford the necessary infrastructure cross to access remote public lands. He continued the islands, tidelands and surrounding submerged lands proposed in HB 91, are arguably best used for such recreational purposes. He felt the establishment of this park would support future development of other more viable residential and commercial areas throughout the borough of Juneau. He presented an example of the golf course area located on North Douglas Island that is presently owned by the Goldbelt Native Corporation and the city/borough. He believed by having a viable marine park for recreational purposes and maintaining that ecosystem increases and enhances the viability of future use of those lands. He concluded by stating assurances should be maintained in HB 91, to work closely with all concerned Native organizations, to properly research and survey these areas for any historical or cultural significance prior to any development efforts. He added proper identification and preservation of such sites is essential and would enhance the park's value for future generations. An example of the demand for such a policy in the bill would be the recent find of the ancient fish weirs and other culturally significant material found in the Mendenhall River basin. He explained they were found in an area where no one really expected them to be and they have cultural significance to the people. He felt that every effort should be made to identify these areas before the construction of trails. Leaving these islands unattended for the public to access could possibly destroy potential historical sites. Mr. Walker stated he fully supported HB 91 and urged the committee to do the same. Number 364 CHAIRMAN DAVIS acknowledged he had similar concerns and considers himself pro-development as well. He commended Mr. Walker on his comments on the enjoyment that people get from visiting these islands and if there were private areas, this would definitely restrict the enjoyment of most people. It would provide for minimizing that opportunity for enjoyment. Chairman Davis made reference to AS 41.21.302, Section (g) which states the requirements and regulations that address any historical and cultural basis or values. CHRISTI HERREN, Member, Juneau Area State Parks Advisory Board, said she would like to let others talk about how appropriate the area is for a state marine park. She asked to address how the park proposal is unique to others and why it is in the state's best interest to have the Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation manage these lands. She reiterated Representative Robinson's comments on the fact the lands went through an extensive selection process from the federal government to the state government and throughout that selections process each one of these islands were selected based on its community recreation values. She explained there were two categories that the islands could be designated under: One was for community expansion; and the other for community recreation. She noted the islands were all selected for community recreation. She explained the selections were all supported by the public and the city/borough of Juneau (CBJ). This past December a management authority was granted to the state to manage these lands. She stated the Department of Natural Resources in December 1993, produced a management plan for all state lands in the Juneau area. The process involved local, state and federal agencies as well as the general public. She indicated it took a couple of years through this process to determine the best use of these lands. Ms. Herren emphasized these islands were recognized for their outstanding recreational values. Each of these islands was designated by that plan to be managed for its recreational values. The Department of Natural Resources has determined that these are recreational lands, they are state lands and will be managed by the department in one form or another. She said this decision has the support of the public and the local municipality. She felt the question of concern should address the issues of which state agency would be better equipped to manage these state recreational lands, the most efficient and economic way possible. She stated the JASPAB feels the State Parks Division is the logical choice for that. She explained the Southeast Region of the Division of Land has indicated in conversation with her that they do not have the personnel with the expertise nor the equipment necessary or the time to manage these lands. She added they do not have much of a recreational land base in Southeast. The Division of Land does have more recreational lands up north and are equipped with the people qualified to deal with these issues. They are contracting out the management of the small area of land they currently have in Southeast Alaska. She noted they are not really in the recreational land management business in Southeast Alaska. She said they indicated that they would probably leave it as is and only respond to life and safety hazards that may occur. MS. HERREN commented that this did not seem like good land stewardship, but in order for them to respond to any life and safety hazards that might occur out there, they would more than likely be dependent on state park personnel to take them out there with state park equipment. She noted this seemed to be a duplication of effort with more people involved than would be necessary. If the Division of Park & Outdoor Recreation was not able to take them out in their boat with their personnel, they would probably have to contract out, which also does not seem like a wise use of state money. She continued if some illegal activity was occurring on these islands, the Division of Land could only pursue those activities through the civil action process. This is a lengthy process that can take several years of notifying these people and posting appropriate notification. She felt the time could be better used by the Division of Land personnel for more important (indisc.) permitting actions. The Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation has criminal authority, which allows them to take care of some of the illegal activities in a more timely manner. This also would be a more efficient use of the state's money. MS. HERREN added if there was work that was necessary on these islands, it is likely the Division of Land would have to contract out that work since they do not have the personnel, the tools or equipment. The Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation could accomplish the tasks with existing personnel or get volunteers to help. The Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation has an impressive volunteer program which has developed over the years. They have had the support of crews from other countries, as well as from all over the U.S. She added they have used them extensively and have gotten a lot done for not very much money. The Division of Land does have a volunteer program as well in Southeast Alaska. To the best of her knowledge they have not had any volunteer work done for them. She said ultimately it makes the most sense to have the Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation manage these lands. They are a very lean enterprising and resourceful agency, which has been able to manage their lands efficiently, even with declining budgets. The Division of Land is not that interested in managing these recreational lands and would only manage them on a crisis basis. She felt it would be better land stewardship to have the agency who is qualified and interested manage these parks. She hoped that the committee would agree and support HB 91. GAIL BILLS, Member, Juneau Area State Parks Advisory Board, and a 20-year resident of the area, asked the committee to consider the following: If the committee votes against this park proposal, are they doing so because they have a better plan. She explained in the six years that she has been a member of the JASPAB, she has never heard or seen any alternative plan. The marine park idea is what the Department of Natural Resources has recommended. It is what the JASPAB recommends, the city and borough of Juneau Parks and Recreation Board and the Juneau Assembly Mayor. She reiterated her question of, if not a park then what. Can the committee tell the people in Juneau, who have been enjoying the islands freely for recreation and subsistence for many decades, what they envisioned for these islands if they choose to assign them to the Division of Land instead of the Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation. She added if the committee chooses to vote no, then please present your vision of the future for the Channel Islands because the people of Juneau deserve to know. Number 493 NANCY WATERMAN, Member, Juneau Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee (JP&RAC), has lived in Juneau since 1969. She indicated when she moved to Juneau the population was about 13,000. The ferry terminal was on South Franklin Street, the airport was considerably smaller than it is today, the Prince George and Princess Pat of the Pacific and Orient (P&O) Steamship company were the only cruise ships that called in Juneau carrying approximately 300 passengers each. They did not sell shore excursions. She said the effects of the local population and traveling public are considerably different now than they were then. She indicated the committee has heard the reasons for a management system for the Channel Islands state marine parks and will not repeat those points, but will encourage passage of HB 91 for the reasons that we need a management system for the Channel Islands. She added she brings with her the unanimous endorsement from the JP&RAC for HB 91. Ms. Waterman indicated she did know someone who owned private property on Shelter Island and believed they used it as a recreational cabin. She felt they would not object to having a state park as their neighbor. Number 510 SUE SCHRADER, Member, Juneau Area State Parks Advisory Board; and Member, Juneau Kayak Club, stated she has paddled to probably everyone of the islands. She called attention to the fact that the majority of these islands are small and not suitable for resource development. Many of the islands contain significant wetlands that would probably discourage any type of development. She also indicated the majority of the islands are an easy paddle even by kayak, and even easier if you have a motorboat. The islands are within a few hours from the road system of Juneau, making for high potential usage. She added in respect to the comment regarding the islands being used by the locals, the past four summers she has met a surprising number of kayakers from out of town, many from Anchorage, as well as out of state. She felt as the sport of kayaking increases, Juneau's reputation will increase as a premiere area for kayaking. She concluded by saying there is great potential for more than local use. CHAIRMAN DAVIS remarked it would be an energetic kayaker to come all the way from Anchorage. He then introduced Sandy Williams. SANDY WILLIAMS, Member, Juneau Area State Parks Advisory Board, stated he has lived in the Juneau area for 35 years. He has also paddled extensively to the Channel Islands with his family who grew up in Juneau. He mentioned in the early days he had only a 12-foot boat, but was able to visit most of the islands. As a result of that, he enjoyed recreating among the islands. As time went on, he acquired a larger boat and ventured out further. He interpreted HB 91 not as a lock-up bill as he has heard reference to, but as a program that will enhance the quality of life for the citizens of Juneau. He noted as the community grows there will be an increasing need for additional recreational opportunities. HB 91 does not lock up the land but actually provides the opportunity for future growth in Juneau. He referred to the comment made earlier regarding volunteer labor and did not see where this particular bill would need a fiscal note. He added the JASPAB does a lot of work in our state parks with the support of volunteer labor. For example, a few years ago the Burgess State Park was formed and a cabin within this park was built using volunteer labor. He added they were in the process currently of soliciting funds for a second cabin locally. In August they plan to start construction of that cabin which will also be done with volunteer labor. He said what we need is the management tool to oversee these kinds of activities so we can accomplish these tasks in a reasonable manner. CHAIRMAN DAVIS stated the volunteer efforts are encouraging. MR. WILLIAMS referred to the cabin they are proposing to build and said by the time they have it built, it will probably be a $50,000 addition to Burgess State Park. This will be done through volunteer contributions in the community as well as volunteer labor. He added it was not a small issue and the Director of the Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation has made a significant effort in soliciting volunteer labor so they can manage the state park resources adequately. He concluded by stating he did not see how we would be able to accomplish the tasks at hand. CHAIRMAN DAVIS introduced Amy Skillaned. AMY SKILLANED said she would pass on testifying in the interest of letting the committee vote on this quickly. Number 570 CHAIRMAN DAVIS expressed his concern to Mr. Gary regarding some questions on whether or not the areas should be privatized. If there is any opportunity for privatization of the lands, what areas would be included remotely relating to developable land, excluding wetland areas or rocky terrain areas. MR. GARY said he would have a hard time responding to that question because some of the people he has talked with who are in the real estate business have looked at this for its potential. Currently, the market for recreational lots is not that strong in Juneau. There is a strong market for buildable housing lots, but obviously it is very difficult to develop these islands for water, sewer and power. There is no economical way to get power to these islands. He added the topography of the islands consists of steep grades. The smaller islands are so small and rocky that it would be difficult to build on. CHAIRMAN DAVIS asked for confirmation that there are no prime building sites that Mr. Gary is aware of located on any of these islands. MR. GARY stated if there had been, there were opportunities before they were selected for a state marine park. When it was forest service land much of the area was explored and a lot of recreational permits were obtained on lands around Juneau, but these islands for one reason or another did not have a lot of that recreational permitting. He continued to explain when the recreational permits were valid and the state selected the land, they received a preference right for ownership. This process occurred previously and was available, but there were no such lots or permits established. Number 599 CHAIRMAN DAVIS asked if the private lands were put up on a bid basis or by lottery. He asked what was the response to those and were they all claimed in the lottery. MR. GARY said he did not know the details on that issue. He indicated he did not know how it was established. He suggested to Chairman Davis that Ms. Herren might be better suited to address those issues. MS. HERREN believed that all the lands did go initially, but many were forfeited because people could not afford to build on them. Number 618 CHAIRMAN DAVIS commented to Mr. Gary regarding the fiscal note that one of the key areas of this is, under the regulations there will be a management plan adopted. He commented since it does not indicate when the plan is to be adopted, then this could be side step as far as the cost of implementing a plan. He explained the Soldotna/Kenai area is currently attempting to change some legislation since regulation is a big question nowadays regarding expense and control of legislative intent. The borough is looking at implementing a plan and then bringing it back to the department for approval. It appears with the efforts and the groups that are formed, this would also be a sensible and cost effective method with regards to the fiscal note. He asked if a dollar amount was incorporated in the management plan. MR. GARY stated no. It only recommends that a plan be done before any development occurs. He explained they did not have the urgency to execute a plan. REPRESENTATIVE EILEEN MACLEAN made a motion to move HB 91 out of the House Transportation Committee with individual recommendations and zero fiscal notes. CHAIRMAN DAVIS asked if there was objection. Hearing none, HB 91 was passed out of the House Transportation Committee.