Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/01/1996 11:45 AM 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 the Homer LIO at 11:45 a.m. and announced  SB 198  to be up          
 for consideration.                                                            
 SENATOR LINCOLN thanked them all for attending the meeting and                
 hoped that the bill would be moving out right away.  She asked                
 Senator Leman why there was a Finance Committee referral if there             
 was a $0 fiscal note.  SENATOR LEMAN answered that the Resources              
 Committee doesn't issue fiscal notes on bills.                                
 ROY E. HOYT, JR. said he had been a pilot since 1942 and in                   
 aviation for many years.  He has a detailed knowledge of the Homer            
 Airport and its surroundings.  Thirty two years ago in the military           
 he was in an accident caused by Canada geese coming through the               
 windshield of a plane.  A goose hit his student in the head                   
 breaking his neck and killing him. He thought it was irresponsible            
 to have a critical habitat near the airport within city limits.  It           
 is impossible to enhance the area for moose without enhancing it              
 for birds, too.  He thought the residents of Homer should vote on             
 Number 106                                                                    
 PAUL K. SEATON, supported SB 198.  He said they had been trying to            
 enhance the winter moose habitat by planting willows in the area on           
 private lands and other lands.  This would aid in the local effort            
 that has been ongoing to improve the moose habitat.                           
 SENATOR LEMAN asked if what they were doing would enhance the bird            
 population.  MR. SEATON answered that he didn't think it would                
 enhance it at all.                                                            
 MARLA MCPHERSON supported SB 198 and said every time she has flown            
 into the airport at Homer in the winter she has counted 30 - 40               
 moose in the area.  She thought the area should be preserved.  She            
 didn't think the issue of birds should be of concern.                         
 Number 158                                                                    
 DAISY LEEBITTER said she had been an Alaskan for over 41 years and            
 supported SB 198 because of the educational, recreational, and                
 tourism values associated with it.  Through the years she has led             
 people through the edge of the wetlands areas through the 11 acres            
 of land trust and she has had a lot of public support so that                 
 trails were established and an observation platform was built.                
 Number 202                                                                    
 JAN EAGLE said she was a new resident of Homer and said she moved             
 there to live because of the beauty of the habitat, the wildlife,             
 and the birding.  She commented that it seems we need to learn to             
 share habitat as both humans and animals exist and use the same               
 SENATOR LEMAN noted that there was a provision stating that it is             
 subject to the authority of the Department of Transportation and              
 Public Facilities to prohibit or remove an activity, installation,            
 or object on the land that may enhance bird habitat on or in the              
 vicinity of the Homer Airport.  Another section says that neither             
 the Department of Fish and Game or any other person may create,               
 develop, or enhance bird habitat within the Homer Airport Critical            
 Habitat Area.  He thought that was a good point.                              
 KATHLEEN MOORE said her concern was with being able to continue               
 multiple use of lands.  She said she and her family use trails that           
 go from Kachemak Bay to East Road.  She said that moose are around            
 the town only when the snow is too deep to be somewhere else unless           
 there are problems with predation when they are calving.  She                 
 supported Mr. Hoyt's concern with accidents from birds flying into            
 planes and suggested that when people see large flocks of geese               
 near the airport to let the airport know.                                     
 SENATOR LEMAN asked Senator Torgerson if he knew of anything in               
 this bill that would preclude that kind of activity.  SENATOR                 
 TORGERSON replied, but the recording was indistinct (background               
 noise).  SENATOR LEMAN said they would look it over and make sure             
 she would not be restricted.                                                  
 DAVE VANDERBRINK said he had been a member of the Wetlands Task               
 Force.  His primary interest from long observation is that there is           
 a great deal of summer time moose habitat and very little for                 
 winter.  That is his primary interest in establishing more area in            
 the lower elevations for the moose to attempt to survive.  He                 
 didn't think the bird problem would be of any great concern so long           
 as managers don't make things too neat, for instance, making the              
 grass too short which attracts geese.  He didn't see how birds                
 would be more of a problem in the future than they are now.                   
 GINO DEL FRATE, ADF&G Wildlife Biologist, testified, but the                  
 recording was indistinct due to background noise.                             
 Number 359                                                                    
 BOB MOSS supported SB 198 based on 50 years of watching changes and           
 developments in the Homer area.  He thought the point had been                
 reached that this legislation was needed.  He said they are working           
 with the whole ecological system, not just one part.  He said this            
 issue has support from the city fathers and from the Division of              
 MILDRED MARTIN supported SB 198.  She said many moose died in the             
 winter of 1992 because the snow was too deep up on the mountain.              
 She thought it was vital that they preserve the habitat for them              
 and recognize the fact that everytime someone builds they are                 
 losing habitat.  She said local support is very strong.                       
 Number 447                                                                    
 JOEL COWPER said he supported creating the habitat area for moose             
 and for other species, as well.  He thought everything should be              
 done to protect the area.  He said the birds were not a problem               
 SENATOR LEMAN said it looked like it wasn't likely that the                   
 legislature would be able to fund any significant effort to enhance           
 NANCY LORD supported SB 198.  She was concerned that the session              
 was half over and the bill was still in its first committee of                
 DENNIS LEACH, Homer City Council, said whenever testimony was taken           
 on this issue, it was favorable.  He explained that Homer is in the           
 process of changing its main focus of economy from commercial                 
 fishing to tourism.  There is a tremendous future there in tourism,           
 but it's going to take some work.  That particular herd of moose              
 represents the vast majority of the watchable wildlife on the                 
 ELIZABETH WEBB, Pratt Museum Homer Society of Natural History, said           
 they supported SB 198.  She read a letter from the Society,                   
 representing about 800 members, reviewing the proposal for                    
 formation of a critical habitat area for the Beluga Wetlands.  The            
 board members were unanimously in favor of the proposal.                      
 She paraphrased comments from Dr. George West, a local                        
 ornithologist regarding bird populations and the aircraft hazard              
 issue.  He said when their task force was formed there was a                  
 healthy colony of 40 pairs of arctic Aleutian terns nesting in the            
 marsh.  Since that time the number of nesting terns has dwindled to           
 two to three pairs.  There are several species of duck which nest             
 there, also.  When there were more nesting birds in the area the              
 task force was not aware of any trouble with aircraft.  He assured            
 everyone that even with critical habitat status there would                   
 continue to be increased pressure on habitat and birds from                   
 recreational use, so there would be even fewer birds, not more                
 birds, to present a hazard to aircraft in the years to come.  The             
 effect of designating the Beluga Wetlands with critical habitat               
 status will benefit the moose more than the birds.                            
 LYNN WHITMORE said he is co-chairman of the Beluga Wetlands Task              
 Force and is the chairman of the Homer Fish and Game Advisory                 
 Committee.  He strongly supported SB 198.                                     
 JIM REARDON, a 40-year resident of Homer and a 46-year resident of            
 Alaska, said he managed the wildlife department of the University             
 of Alaska in 1950 and worked for the ADF&G for 12 years.  He has              
 also worked at the Homer Airport.  He said the problem with the               
 birds down there is that they seem to be diminishing and he didn't            
 see how the critical habitat area would increase the danger from              
 bird strikes by airplanes using the Airport.                                  
 RON DRATHMAN, Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly (KPBA), said there's           
 really nothing you can do about the situation.  It's not good to              
 have an airport near developed land and if it is out of town there            
 will be some animals around it.  He said he thought we are fighting           
 a losing battle against development, but we should do something to            
 protect the area.                                                             
 NINA FAUST, Kachemak Bay Conservation Society, strongly supported             
 SB 198.  She thought it was a good idea to set aside areas of                 
 habitat for the economic infrastructure associated with tourism.              
 Number 573                                                                    
 EDGAR BAILEY, Homer wildlife biologist, supported previous                    
 testimony of Jim Rinehart and George West.  Being from California             
 he has seen what has happened cumulatively with the lost habitat              
 and if we don't use some foresight we are going to have the same              
 thing happen in Alaska that is occurring in California.                       
 TAPE 96-22, SIDE B                                                            
 Number 580                                                                    
 He said the key wintering areas are what are in short supply.  He             
 thought this was an outstanding opportunity to look at cumulative             
 impacts and have foresight and safeguard a very key area which is             
 only a little more than a square mile.  It is very essential for              
 wintering moose populations.                                                  
 MR. BAILEY thought passage of this bill was extremely important and           
 he didn't think there would be any real problem with birds because            
 with the surrounding loss of habitat the bird problem is actually             
 HARRY GREGOIRE said there was a bird problem at the airport and               
 they would continue to have a problem with enhancing the moose                
 habitat.  He said there was an accident at the airport that wasn't            
 recorded.  He said the economic base is dependent upon the airport.           
 He said they need to make jobs.  He found that $87 million dollars            
 of land within the city limits of Homer is either State, federal,             
 or Borough - non-taxed.  That is one fourth of their total lands.             
 DOT want to take another 600 feet (300 acres) which would wipe out            
 the commercial D-2 property.                                                  
 MR. GREGOIRE said he was concerned about the airport's ability to             
 function, but he didn't think SB 198 would keep it from being able            
 to function.                                                                  
 KEN CASTNER, Homer resident and private pilot, said he does a lot             
 of his flying around Beluga Lake.  He said the summer wind in Homer           
 comes in from the Southwest and the proposed critical habitat area            
 is his approach into Beluga Lake and he sees moose there most of              
 the time.  Moose aren't a big problem.  He said that Beluga Lake is           
 not the wildest place he flies in and out of.  There are a lot of             
 places that have animals and birds, especially large birds like               
 swans, loons, and cranes, but that is just a factor in being an               
 Alaskan pilot.  Pilots carry experiences and relations of                     
 experiences around with them so they don't run into the same                  
 problems.  Bird avoidance is part of the skills that you build.  He           
 really didn't see what the alternative was to making this a                   
 critical habitat.  He would object to putting a tower up there for            
 the approach to Beluga Lake.  Short of killing every bird in the              
 area he really didn't know how to avoid that problem.                         
 PAM BRODIE supported SB 198. She spends a lot of time out of doors            
 and thought it was important to keep the area open to the moose.              
 An unidentified Homer City Council member (Jack) wanted Homer to be           
 a town where people could come in and see a herd of moose.  He said           
 the area on the north side of the runway and the small areas to the           
 south are specifically targeted by moose.  As pressures around                
 these areas increase the population of birds decrease.  We are                
 stewards not only for now, but for generations to come.                       
 GARNER MCGINTY said he had been in Alaska for 50 years and had been           
 all over.  Moose and bird habitat is all over Alaska.  He said                
 there are two choices here.  Either everyone moves out and lets the           
 moose and birds have it or we have to work together.                          
 SENATOR TORGERSON thanked everyone for their participation at the             
 meeting.  SENATOR LEMAN also thanked his staff, Mary Vollendorf,              
 and Eric Musser, staff to Speaker Gail Phillips, for their help.              
 Number 451                                                                    
 SENATOR LEMAN recessed the meeting at 12:55 p.m.                              

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