Legislature(1995 - 1996)

02/21/1996 03:45 PM RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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.                                            

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