Legislature(1995 - 1996)
02/21/1996 03:45 PM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 198 HOMER AIRPORT CRITICAL HAB. AREA CHAIRMAN LEMAN called the Senate Resources Committee meeting to order at 3:45 p.m. and announced SB 198 to be up for consideration. SENATOR TORGERSON, sponsor of SB 198, said the Department of Transportation currently has under its jurisdiction and control about 1,000 acres surrounding and including the Homer Airport. This bill asks that 300 acres of that be set aside for the primary purpose of protecting wintering moose calves and some waterfowl and shorebirds. He noted that the waterfowl and shorebirds are absolutely restricted from any of the airport enhancement programs coming up. Opposition to the bill has basically been centered around whether or not there will be enough room for future expansion of the airport. The Homer City Council addressed this issue three times, but the mayor vetoed the resolution authorizing support for the bill each time. SENATOR TORGERSON said this issue had taken an extreme amount of negotiations between the DOT, Homer residents, the City Council, and the Mayor's office. SENATOR LEMAN asked what this would actually do to the management of the property, other than just protection against future development. MR. TORGERSON said he didn't anticipate any changes. Some willows might be planted for moose to eat, because it's the only moose calving place left in its natural state. Number 135 BRIAN SWEIVEN, Homer City Councilman, said on February 3, and in April of 1995 the Council passed resolutions supporting critical habitat. In October, Senator Torgerson held a public meeting in Homer on this legislation. The Mayor was the only person who objected. In December 1995 the Council unanimously supported the legislation. On January 22, 1996 the City Council approved another resolution supporting SB 198 and the Mayor vetoed it. On February 12, 1996, the City Council overturned the Mayor's veto by a vote of 6 - 0. ERIC PETERSON, Homer City Councilman, supported SB 198, although he is a realtor and a development oriented person. This is not an anti-development bill, he said. It is simply a bill to use State land that is not being used to let moose eat. Other things can be done like nature trails and viewing areas for tourists. He said they would not do something like this in Homer unless it had broad community support, which it has. Number 197 SAM KITO III, DOT, said they support SB 198. He said presently it is being managed as clear area for the Homer airport which in essence means that nothing is being done on the property. The area in question is a wetlands area and there are no trees to cut. Number 215 DEREK STONOROV, Beluga Wetlands, supported the testimony and SB 198. He said they have the support of the people in the area as well as letters of support from 15 different groups and a petition with 200 names on it. SENATOR LEMAN noted that there are two small parcels south of the airstrip and he asked why they are part of the proposed critical habitat area. MR. STONOROV said they were included because there is an Aleutian tern colony that uses the wetlands there. It's the only Aleutian tern colony that has road access in the State. He added that there are 850 feet from the center of the runway and part of the colony would be inside that right-of-way. LYNN WHITMORE, co-chairman of a local task force and chairman of the Homer Fish and Game Advisory Committee, said they have supported this concept for a long time. Recently, they had to institute a cow moose hunt because of the population of moose they had compared to the winter browse. Something definitely needs to be done. Number 272 NANCY LORD, Homer resident, said that part of the intent is to add the advantage of having the area identified for this purpose. There is a land trust and there are some land owners who would possibly donate their lands to public use in conjunction with the reserved area. There would be more opportunity for recognizing the area for its wildlife viewing and recreational values to aid the tourism industry. GINO DELFRATE, Biologist, ADF&G, said he supported SB 198. SENATOR LEMAN asked if he anticipated that the Department would be rather passive and let community groups and individuals work on the property or would they actually be actively involved in improving the moose browse. MR. DELFRATE said at present there are no plans for habitat enhancement. SENATOR LEMAN said he would set the bill aside and announced that he would be in Homer with Senator Torgerson on March 1 and they planned to view the site and there would be a chance for public input from 11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.