Legislature(2005 - 2006)SENATE FINANCE 532
01/17/2006 09:00 AM FINANCE
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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= bill was previously heard/scheduled
9:49:33 AM SENATE BILL NO. 55 "An Act instructing the commissioner of natural resources to issue a patent for the remaining interest in certain state land to the owner of the agricultural rights to that land." This was the first hearing for this bill in the Senate Finance Committee. AMY SEITZ, Staff to sponsor of the bill, Senator Tom Wagoner, testified that this legislation was introduced to settle ownership of a parcel of land near the community of Hope. The Miller family homesteaded 27 acres and leased grazing rights on another 15 acres from the federal government. During the 1964 earthquake, 18 of the acres owned by the Miller family became part of a riverbed and were unsuitable for use. The federal government compensated this loss of 17 acres with one acre of federal land. The State deemed this exchange unfair and leased grazing rights on 15 acres of Forest Service land to the family. These rights were amended to agricultural rights in 1978. However, the family should have full rights to this land. Ms. Seitz informed that a statutory provision is required to allow the conveyance of this property. Former Senator John Torgerson had sponsored similar legislation during his tenure. The legislation before the Committee is limited to the one parcel of land and it contains detailed provisions for the exchange. 9:52:40 AM Senator Bunde asked the total dollar amount of the proposed land sale and whether the proceeds would be deposited into the State general fund or the Lands Disposal Account fund. 9:53:05 AM Ms. Seitz assumed the monies would be deposited to the general fund. The final price would not be determined until a final appraisal was completed. 9:53:26 AM DICK MYLIUS, Acting Director, Division of Mining, Land and Water, Department of Natural Resources, testified via teleconference from an offnet location that the value of the property would not be assessed if and until this legislation passed. The proceeds would be deposited to the Land Disposal Fund account and would be utilized for other land disposal activities. 9:54:19 AM Senator Bunde surmised that the amount of the fiscal note should be indeterminate rather than zero. 9:54:33 AM Senator Bunde assumed that the cost to process the sale of the land would not exceed the selling price. 9:54:55 AM Mr. Mylius replied that the fiscal note could be amended to reflect an indeterminate amount. The expense would be less than the proceeds from the sale. 9:55:13 AM FRANK MILLER testified via teleconference from Kenai that he and his sister are co-owners of the property in question. They inherited the land from their parents. He supported this legislation, as it would solve problems encountered for many years. Currently the property could not be subdivided and subsequently passed along to their children. 9:56:20 AM ROSWITHA MILLER testified via teleconference from Kenai also in support of this bill. She is married to Frank Miller. 9:56:40 AM CHARLES GRAHAM testified via teleconference from Kenai, as the spouse of Linda Miller, Frank Miller's sister and co-owner of the property. This legislation is necessary to resolve the title to the property. 9:57:14 AM Senator Bunde spoke to efforts of the community of Hope to attract new families in order to continue its school operations. He understood that the intent of transferring ownership of this land is to allow the property to be subdivided. He asked the possibility that this could assist the community's goal. 9:57:44 AM Mr. Graham acknowledged the possibility, although he could not provide a definitive answer. Currently the property could not be subdivided. The intent is to share the land with family members. 9:58:21 AM Mr. Miller shared that his daughter would like to reside on the property, which has necessitated resolution to the ownership issue. He admitted that the decision as to whether she would assist in increasing the student body was not his to make. 9:58:48 AM Senator Stedman assumed that this transaction would not include subsurface rights. 9:59:03 AM Ms. Seitz responded that as with any land disposal, the subsurface rights would be retained by the State. 9:59:27 AM Senator Stedman supported this bill. However, he did not support establishment of a precedent of providing compensation for coastal properties in which useable land was eliminated. He spoke to the global warming phenomena causing significant ice melt and subsequent changes to mean high tide marks. Although this legislation is specifically directed to land lost because of an earthquake, he cautioned against the precedent that property boundaries could be expanded but not reduced from natural causes. 10:00:41 AM Senator Stedman explained that property located in an area in which the land plate was sinking could be reduced in size. If that property were located in an area in which the high tide mark receded, the amount of property could increase. 10:01:20 AM Mr. Mylius replied that such coastal occurrences would not apply to this parcel because the property is inland. The initial land that was lost in the earthquake became a part of the Turnigan Arm water body. Mr. Mylius also affirmed that the subsurface rights of the Hope property would be retained by the State. 10:02:08 AM Senator Bunde noted that the provisions of this legislation would be repealed at the end of the current year and could not be applied in other situations. 10:02:22 AM Senator Olson asked the relevancy of this legislation to communities experiencing extensive erosion. 10:02:48 AM Mr. Mylius responded that erosion is not the issue with this parcel. A well-established principle exists regarding boundary changes caused by erosion. Compensation is not provided in these instances that occur gradually. Because the earthquake was an immediate occurrence, compensation was warranted. Loss from a flash flood could be another exception. 10:04:35 AM Senator Olson asked the number of other landowners affected by the 1964 earthquake who received compensation. 10:04:50 AM Mr. Mylius replied that many property owners in Anchorage were granted parcels on the Anchorage Hillside after their low lying land slipped into Turnigan Arm. Land was also granted for land lost in Girdwood, Portage and Kachemak Bay. Few properties in Hope were affected. 10:05:29 AM Senator Olson asked why the Department anticipated that other property owners affected by the earthquake would not qualify for compensation under the provisions of this bill. 10:05:44 AM Mr. Mylius responded that most of the originally compensated property owners were granted fee simple rights. The Millers received agricultural rights to National Forest land that is subject to limited applicability. Also, the federal government was the grantor of the other properties. The rights to the property addressed in this legislation were awarded to the Millers as a substitution for the compensation the federal government did not award. 10:07:02 AM Co-Chair Green ordered the bill HELD in Committee to await a revised fiscal note.