Legislature(2009 - 2010)CAPITOL 17

03/11/2010 01:00 PM TRANSPORTATION

Download Mp3. <- Right click and save file as

* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Meeting Postponed to 1:20 pm Today --
Moved Out of Committee
Moved CSHB 366(TRA) Out of Committee
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
         HB 267-SNOW MACHINE USE IN DALTON HWY CORRIDOR                                                                     
2:26:35 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR P. WILSON announced that  the final order of business would                                                               
be  HOUSE BILL  NO.  267,  "An Act  relating  to  travel by  snow                                                               
machine  within  five miles  of  the  right-of-way of  the  James                                                               
Dalton Highway."                                                                                                                
2:26:38 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  MIKE KELLY,  Alaska State  Legislature, explained                                                               
that HB  267 is the Dalton  Highway Access Bill.   He paraphrased                                                               
from  his sponsor  statement,  which  read [original  punctuation                                                               
     Since  1980, state  law  has  prohibited virtually  all                                                                    
     off-road vehicle  use within  five miles of  the Dalton                                                                    
     Highway  north  of  the Yukon  River.  Miners  and  oil                                                                    
     workers are allowed to cross  the corridor for business                                                                    
     use and  local resident  snowmachine use  is permitted.                                                                    
     HB  267,  as  introduced,   ended  the  prohibition  on                                                                    
     Alaskan's  right  to  travel  by  snowmachine  on  this                                                                    
     public land corridor during the winter months.                                                                             
     Many  Alaskans believe  that travel  by snowmachine  in                                                                    
     the  Dalton  Corridor  is  prevented  by  federal  law.                                                                    
     Wrong. The problem is state law.                                                                                           
     A  February   20,  2010  Fairbanks  Daily   News  Miner                                                                    
     editorial stated (excerpt):                                                                                                
     Some argue  that the  state must  prohibit snowmachines                                                                    
     in  the  corridor  to protect  wildlife  from  renegade                                                                    
     hunters. If  this is  a reasonable  argument, shouldn't                                                                    
     the state apply  the same five-mile buffer  to the rest                                                                    
     of  its  remote  road  system?  Most  of  our  highways                                                                    
     traverse lightly populated  areas where law enforcement                                                                    
     is spotty.                                                                                                                 
     The  Dalton  Highway  is more  remote,  yes,  but  that                                                                    
     actually argues against  more stringent regulation. Its                                                                    
     remoteness,  lack  of   services  and  unpaved  surface                                                                    
     discourage most  Alaskans from venturing up  it - fewer                                                                    
     people, fewer enforcement problems                                                                                         
     The  blanket prohibition  north of  the Yukon  River is                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLY   stated  that  HB  267   would  allow                                                                    
snowmachine use on the Dalton  Highway corridor from October                                                                    
1 to April 30 when soil is  frozen and covered in snow.  The                                                                    
resulting impact  on surface  vegetation should  be minimal.                                                                    
If  HB  267  passes,   the  prohibition  on  other  off-road                                                                    
vehicles would remain.   This bill applies  strictly to snow                                                                    
machines.   He pointed  out that  hunting methods  and means                                                                    
are strictly controlled  by the Alaska Department  of Fish &                                                                    
Game  regulations and  laws.   This  bill  would not  change                                                                    
their laws.   In  response to Chair  Wilson, he  agreed that                                                                    
this  bill would  not change  any  restrictions on  vehicles                                                                    
used for hunting.                                                                                                               
2:30:59 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  PETERSEN asked  whether any  mechanism exists  to                                                               
close the  Dalton Highway Corridor  during a year  with extremely                                                               
late  snowfalls and  insufficient  snow  existed for  snowmachine                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLY imagined  that an  emergency closure  would                                                               
apply.   He stated that  would apply to  other areas.   He opined                                                               
that he personally  rides snowmachines but does  not ride without                                                               
snow  since it  is so  difficult.   He surmised  that during  the                                                               
timeframe affected  by the bill, north  of the Yukon it  would be                                                               
chilly and snowy.                                                                                                               
2:32:15 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON referred  to page 1, line  13, which read,                                                               
"(3) the use  of a snow machine to travel  across the highway..."                                                               
and asked for an explanation.                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE KELLY  related that  travel from  West to  East is                                                               
permitted, but travel along the  corridor is limited.  In further                                                               
response  to Representative  Johnson,  he agreed  a person  could                                                               
pull alongside the road, unload  their snowmachine, and access to                                                               
property within and  outside of the five miles on  either side of                                                               
the Dalton Highway.                                                                                                             
2:33:26 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KELLY,  in response to Chair  Wilson, guessed that                                                               
from the Yukon River to the Arctic  Ocean is about 357 miles.  In                                                               
further  response to  Chair Wilson,  he agreed  that snowmachines                                                               
are  not allowed  in the  Dalton  Highway Corridor  north of  the                                                               
Yukon  River with  a  buffer  zone five  miles  along the  Dalton                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE KELLY related  that this bill would  be similar to                                                               
other  roads in  Alaska.   Currently  the  five-mile corridor  on                                                               
either side of the Dalton Highway is a "no zone."                                                                               
2:34:31 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON  asked how snowmachines would  gain access                                                               
to  areas  outside  the  five  miles  along  the  Dalton  Highway                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE KELLY agreed.   He stated people can  fly or hike.                                                               
In  further response  to Representative  Johnson, he  agreed that                                                               
except for flying  and hiking land outside  the ten-mile corridor                                                               
is "shut off."                                                                                                                  
CHAIR P. WILSON  related that some exceptions  exist for off-road                                                               
vehicles  necessary for  oil  and  gas exploration,  development,                                                               
production,  or transportation;  a person  with mining  claims in                                                               
the vicinity  of the highway  and who  must use land  within five                                                               
miles of  the right-of-way of the  highway to gain access  to the                                                               
mining claim, and the use of  a snow machine to travel across the                                                               
highway corridor from land outside  the corridor [page 1, line 8-                                                               
2:36:03 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON  stated his  perspective is for  people to                                                               
"put meat on the table" for  the purposes of hunting and also for                                                               
recreation.   He  stated that  current law  excludes people  from                                                               
using their snowmachine and hunting beyond the corridor.                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE   KELLY  related   that  hunting   would  not   be                                                               
unrestricted,  since currently  the hunting  is limited  and this                                                               
bill  would not  change  that  aspect.   The  ADF&G controls  the                                                               
methods and  means and  this bill  does not  change the  fish and                                                               
game  laws.     In  response   to  Representative   Petersen,  he                                                               
identified that the land is state land.                                                                                         
2:37:42 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE MARK NEUMAN,  Alaska State Legislature, testifying                                                               
as joint prime sponsor of  HB 267, related his understanding that                                                               
an overabundance  of caribou exists  in the area of  about 75,000                                                               
to 80,000 animals while then optimum  herd size is 37,500.  Thus,                                                               
the herd is at risk of  overgrazing since the primary food source                                                               
is lichen.                                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE NEUMAN stated  that lichen could take  50 years to                                                               
grow.   Managing the herd is  critical.  He said  that ultimately                                                               
3,000  to 3,500  animals should  be harvested  annually, but  the                                                               
take  is less  than 800.   Thus,  the herd  is increasing,  which                                                               
creates  concern  of overgrazing  and  could  cause the  herd  to                                                               
crash.   He related that crashes  have happened in some  areas of                                                               
the state.  His goal is to use  this bill as a management tool to                                                               
put more meat  in Alaskans' freezers.  He said  the Nelchina herd                                                               
has changed from Tier  I to Tier II since so  many people want to                                                               
apply for the permits.                                                                                                          
2:40:31 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  P.  WILSON said  she  thought  this  bill would  not  make                                                               
changes on any hunting.                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE  NEUMAN  related that  the  Alaska  Board of  Game                                                               
would have the ability and opportunity to manage the herd.                                                                      
CHAIR  P. WILSON  asked  whether  the Board  of  Game could  make                                                               
management decisions  in a  different way  if the  Dalton Highway                                                               
corridor was opened.                                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE  NEUMAN  agreed  the  Board  of  Game  would  make                                                               
determinations  on  the  allocation  of  game.   He  said  he  is                                                               
interested in  ensuring long-term  sustainable food  products for                                                               
2:43:32 PM                                                                                                                    
THOR STACEY stated  that he is attending school in  Juneau at the                                                               
University of Alaska.   For the past seven years  he has lived at                                                               
Wiseman.   He is  a registered hunting  guide holding  permits in                                                               
the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.   His family has significant                                                               
mining  interests in  the area  in question.   He  has personally                                                               
frequently  traveled the  road, well  over 100  times during  the                                                               
winter and summer.  He said he is  in opposition to the bill.  He                                                               
said he has  suggestions for the committee.  He  pointed out that                                                               
the intent  of the road  is to  provide support for  Prudhoe Bay.                                                               
The  infrastructure  is  in place  for  truckers,  including  the                                                               
pullouts for truckers  to chain up their vehicles  or take rests.                                                               
The  winter  transportation time  is  the  only time  that  heavy                                                               
winter loads, over  a certain weight limit, are  allowable.  Much                                                               
of the  road is gravel  and allowing additional  recreational use                                                               
places  this   use  in  direct  competition   with  the  trucking                                                               
industry.   The proposed future  gas line will  demand additional                                                               
infrastructure.   All  the recreational  use  facilities are  not                                                               
maintained during the  winter.  He related that  few Alaska State                                                               
Troopers   are   available   for  wildlife   or   state   highway                                                               
enforcement.   He was unaware  of any medical  emergencies except                                                               
for the Alyeska Pipeline Services.                                                                                              
2:46:42 PM                                                                                                                    
MR.  STACEY offered  his belief  that  it would  be difficult  to                                                               
handle an  accident in an  expedient manner  in Atigun Pass.   He                                                               
related that  there is not a  fiscal note attached to  this bill.                                                               
He expressed concern  over where people would  park, and blocking                                                               
roadways that  require regular  inspections of  pipe.   He stated                                                               
this  is  the  most  critical  time for  industry,  but  not  for                                                               
recreational  use.   He  requested the  committee  hold the  bill                                                               
since the road  is needed for the potential gasline  and due to a                                                               
lack of clear understanding of the  impact on industry and due to                                                               
the lack of support on the public highway.                                                                                      
2:49:19 PM                                                                                                                    
GEOFF  CARROLL,  speaking on  behalf  of  himself, described  his                                                               
background as a  wildlife biologist.  He  testified in opposition                                                               
to HB  267.  He related  that when the decisions  were being made                                                               
over  whether the  "haul road"  would be  built, the  North Slope                                                               
residents were assured the road would  not be open to the public.                                                               
The road  was opened  to the  public.   Another promise  was that                                                               
wildlife resources  would be protected  by not  allowing off-road                                                               
vehicles to  access the land.   This bill poses a  threat to that                                                               
promise.  If the state wants  credibility on the North Slope, the                                                               
legislature should  not pass  this bill.   Another reason  not to                                                               
open  the Dalton  Highway  Corridor to  snowmachines  is that  it                                                               
would result in  user conflicts with local hunters.   He recalled                                                               
earlier  testimony on  the Central  Arctic herd  and offered  his                                                               
belief  that  the numbers  were  overblown.   Evidence  does  not                                                               
indicate any overgrazing, he stated.   The Teshekpuk Caribou Herd                                                               
numbers  about  62,000  and  provides  an  important  subsistence                                                               
resource to the North Slope residents.   Most of the range of the                                                               
Teshekpuk  herd  is  in  the central  and  western  North  Slope.                                                               
During the  period 2002-2008, a  substantial portion of  the herd                                                               
wintered  in the  Dalton Highway  area.   Recently, the  Board of                                                               
Game  increased the  bag  limit in  that area  from  two to  five                                                               
MR. CARROLL  predicted that HB 267  passes and the Board  of Game                                                               
allow hunters to  use snowmachines in the area  the harvest would                                                               
increase substantially.   The harvest  rate on that herd  is high                                                               
enough that  if harvest  increases along  the Dalton  Highway, it                                                               
would decrease the  harvest somewhere else.  This  would create a                                                               
major user  conflict, pitting sport  hunters against  North Slope                                                               
subsistence hunters.   Even if  there is no increase  in hunting,                                                               
increase  snowmachine use  would impact  wildlife.   Part of  the                                                               
strategy  for  animals  in  the  winter  is  to  become  somewhat                                                               
sedentary to  conserve energy.   With increased  activity animals                                                               
use up  their energy reserves  and often starve before  winter is                                                               
over.    Muskoxen are  particularly  vulnerable  to this.    When                                                               
people see  muskoxen in the  Dalton Highway Corridor,  they drive                                                               
up for  a closer look,  which will  result in the  animals moving                                                               
and use up their energy reserves.   This activity can scatter the                                                               
herd and make  them more vulnerable to  predation and abandonment                                                               
of calves.   Muskoxen numbers  have seriously declined  in recent                                                               
years.    The  last  thing   the  Muskoxen  need  is  harassment,                                                               
particularly  when the  animals should  be sedentary.   He  urged                                                               
members to  honor their promise,  minimize impact  on subsistence                                                               
hunters and the land, and vote down HB 267.                                                                                     
2:52:56 PM                                                                                                                    
TODD CLARK spoke in  support of HB 267.  He  pointed out that the                                                               
state  constitution  provides for  the  development  of land  and                                                               
water for the maximum benefit of  the people.  The Dalton Highway                                                               
Corridor  acts as  a fence  and the  general user  does not  have                                                               
access  to  the  millions  of  acres beyond  the  corridor.    He                                                               
suggested  viewing  the  state  over   a  20  year  period.    He                                                               
speculated that twenty  years from now twice as  many people will                                                               
want to access  the state's resources.  The  state's current mode                                                               
seems to  be restrictive.   This bill would allow  an opportunity                                                               
to  create additional  access with  minimal impact.   He  related                                                               
that snowmachines are allowed on  lands managed by the Department                                                               
of Natural Resources,  Division of State Parks.   He related that                                                               
the division seems  to agree the impact by  snowmachines has been                                                               
minimal.   Currently, the  lands and  resources are  available to                                                               
pilots, mining  and other  commerce, and people  who live  in the                                                               
Dalton Highway Corridor.   However, the land is  not available to                                                               
the  average Alaska  resident.   He suggested  members drive  the                                                               
highway  to sense  the vastness  of the  area.   He characterized                                                               
residents  as  essentially "locked  out"  of  the Dalton  Highway                                                               
Corridor area.                                                                                                                  
2:55:13 PM                                                                                                                    
RANDY QUINCY, Board Member, Alaska  Outdoor Council (AOC), stated                                                               
that the  AOC consists of  2,300 members  in 48 clubs,  with over                                                               
10,000  collective members.   He  said that  the AOC  supports HB
2:55:39 PM                                                                                                                    
JACK REAKOFF  said he  is not in  support of HB  267.   He stated                                                               
that  the Board  of  Game  wrote a  letter  in  November 2009  in                                                               
support  of the  pre-bill at  its meeting  in Nome,  Alaska.   He                                                               
stated that  "it's a  given that there  will be  hunting pressure                                                               
exerted on the  resources near the Dalton Highway  in the winter.                                                               
He recalled a similar bill  was previously offered in the Senate.                                                               
He further recalled the Senate  Resources Committee held hearings                                                               
in  Fairbanks, Wiseman,  and Barrow.   He  offered that  everyone                                                               
expressed concern about disturbing  or "outright killing of these                                                               
animals."  As of March 1,  the latest Board of Game increased the                                                               
bag limit  by 150  percent.  Twenty-five  percent of  the hunters                                                               
are nonresident hunters.   The harvest time has  increased by two                                                               
months for cow  caribou.  He said, "I'm very  concerned.  I'm the                                                               
Chair  of the  Western  Interior Regional  Advisory Council,  Co-                                                               
Chair of  the Koyukuk  River Advisory Committee.   The  people of                                                               
this  area  are  very  concerned  about  the  additional  harvest                                                               
opportunity."   He  recalled that  some people  submitted to  the                                                               
Board of Game that the herd  is imminently in danger of crashing.                                                               
However,  the   reality  is  the   ADF&G  did  not   provide  any                                                               
documentation that the  herd is declining.   Productivity is high                                                               
and two-year  old caribou  have calves, which  he believed  is an                                                               
indication of a  healthy herd.  The Central Arctic  herd is using                                                               
areas on  the south side  of the Brooks  Range that has  not been                                                               
used  by caribou  in  35  years.   There  are  lots of  resources                                                               
available  for the  caribou  to use.   The  reality  is the  five                                                               
caribou  limit   is  allocated  for  nonresident   hunters.    He                                                               
anticipated a huge increase by non-Alaskans.                                                                                    
MR.  REAKOFF  offered  his  belief  that this  bill  is  not  for                                                               
residents.    Currently, the  area  experiences  a high-level  of                                                               
nonresident using boats, dog teams,  and aircraft.  The Mulchatna                                                               
Caribou herd,  with primary access  by aircraft access  went from                                                               
200,000  to  28,000   animals  over  a  12-year   period.    This                                                               
represents an 86  percent decline, while the  wolf population had                                                               
one adult wolf per 100 cows.   The herd did not have any breeding                                                               
capacity, he stated.  Snowmachine  access is so efficient that it                                                               
would allow access  to cow caribou as they cross  over the Brooks                                                               
Range and move  across the coastal plain since the  area does not                                                               
"break up"  until mid-May.   Thus,  year-round hunting  access to                                                               
cow  caribou would  subject  the  caribou to  high  harvest.   He                                                               
offered  his belief  that  snowmachine access  would  need to  be                                                               
curtailed  in a  short time  period.   He said,  "Caribou do  not                                                               
2:59:34 PM                                                                                                                    
MR.  REAKOFF stated  the  caribou cannot  sustain  this level  of                                                               
harvest.   Dall Sheep  have critical  wintering habitat  and high                                                               
marking  on  the sides  of  the  mountains.   He  predicted  that                                                               
"chasing Dall  Sheep off their  wintering habitats will  kill the                                                               
Dall Sheep."   This is  the most northerly wild  sheep population                                                               
in  the  world.   The  oil  industry  will  be required  to  have                                                               
additional  restrictions once  the herd  is decimated.   The  oil                                                               
industry  has enjoyed  the growing  population of  caribou, which                                                               
implied  that the  industry could  cohabitate with  the resource.                                                               
The  reality  is once  this  herd  is decimated  by  overharvest,                                                               
encouraged  by  snowmachine  access,   the  industry  will  incur                                                               
additional  expenses.    This  bill  basically  is  fraught  with                                                               
numerous problems,  he stated.   He  suggested that  ice truckers                                                               
encounter  steep  roads  and pickups  with  heavy  trailers  will                                                               
inevitably jackknife  and have accidents.   He said,  "There will                                                               
need to be large fiscal note  attached to the bill for [Emergency                                                               
Medical Services] EMS, additional troopers."   He stated that the                                                               
[AST] Trooper at  Coldfoot has not been  present since September,                                                               
yet the area encompasses a 78,000  square miles.  He offered that                                                               
currently the  AST does not  have a  Trooper present.   He stated                                                               
that  additional  funding would  be  needed  for AST,  a  MEDIVAC                                                               
helicopter, and the  bill is flawed.  He offered  his belief that                                                               
the  entire  caribou harvest  was  2,000,  including the  village                                                               
harvest.  He  cautioned that the five caribou  limit will attract                                                               
hundreds  of  nonresident hunters  and  air  carriers to  support                                                               
their access.                                                                                                                   
MR.  REAKOFF said,  "The reality  is  this bill  would have  huge                                                               
detrimental effects  to the  caribou herds  and the  managers and                                                               
people  of  Alaska will  be  looked  at  as slaughterers  of  the                                                               
resource that inhabits  the Arctic Coastal Plain,  which is under                                                               
high  spotlight."   He urged  members not  to adopt  HB 267.   In                                                               
response to Chair  P. Wilson, he stated that he  is from Wiseman,                                                               
Alaska, half-way  between Fairbanks and  Prudhoe Bay.   He stated                                                               
he has lived in the Central  Brooks Range since before the Dalton                                                               
Highway was  built.  He said,  "I'm very concerned as  an Alaskan                                                               
resident that  we are reallocating  our resource  to nonresidents                                                               
and not actually doing what this bill is proposing to do."                                                                      
3:03:26 PM                                                                                                                    
NICOLE FLIPS  stated that she  is property owner in  Wiseman, but                                                               
her primary  residence is in Fairbanks.   She said she  hunts for                                                               
Dall Sheep  and caribou  outside the  Dalton Highway  Corridor by                                                               
foot and dog team.   There is no need to change the  law as it is                                                               
currently written  prohibiting off-road  vehicles on the  land in                                                               
the  Dalton Highway  Corridor.    She said,  "Only  the lazy  and                                                               
uninspired would  claim the  current law  denies their  access to                                                               
the  public  lands along  the  Dalton."    She asked  members  to                                                               
consider the  overwhelming evidence that this  bill will threaten                                                               
the  sensitive wildlife  and subsistence  uses  along the  Dalton                                                               
Highway  Corridor.   She  asked  members  to also  consider  that                                                               
allowing  snowmachines along  the  Dalton  Highway Corridor  will                                                               
cost money  through the increased  demand and need  for emergency                                                               
services,  public safety,  and  wildlife  protection.   Secondly,                                                               
allowing  snowmachines  in  the   Dalton  Highway  Corridor  will                                                               
increase  accidents,  medical   emergencies,  search  and  rescue                                                               
operations,  and  trespass.    She  expressed  concern  over  the                                                               
potential for  increased vandalism  of mining  equipment, private                                                               
property,  tourism   facilities,  oil  company   facilities,  and                                                               
university research  facilities.   She reiterated  that emergency                                                               
services do not currently exist.   Finally, allowing snowmachines                                                               
in the  Dalton Highway Corridor  will require  road improvements,                                                               
pullouts, outhouses,  and trash receptacles.   She asked  for the                                                               
fiscal note  to reflect the impact  that HB 267 will  have on the                                                               
local  residents, businesses,  and miners  who are  left insecure                                                               
and  unsafe.   She  concluded,  "I want  myself  and my  property                                                               
CHAIR P.  WILSON related that several  committee members traveled                                                               
on the  Dalton Highway this  summer.  She explained  that members                                                               
rode in  the commercial trucks.   She  stated that she  could not                                                               
imagine traveling the  Dalton Highway in the winter.   She agreed                                                               
the pullouts are necessary for emergency purposes.                                                                              
[HB 267 was held over.]                                                                                                         
3:07:55 PM                                                                                                                    

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB267 sponsor stmt TRA.pdf HTRA 3/11/2010 1:00:00 PM
HTRA 3/16/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 267
hb 267 backup TRA.pdf HTRA 3/11/2010 1:00:00 PM
HTRA 3/16/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 267
HB366 Backup TRA.pdf HTRA 3/11/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 366
HB366 Sectional TRA.pdf HTRA 3/11/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 366
HB366 Sponsor strmt TRA.pdf HTRA 3/11/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 366
HB354 Sponsor Statement.pdf HTRA 3/11/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 354
HB354 Sponsor Statement TRA.pdf HTRA 3/11/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 354
HB354 Sponsor Statement TRA.pdf HTRA 3/11/2010 1:00:00 PM
HB 354