Legislature(2001 - 2002)

05/03/2001 06:25 PM RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
          HB 244-RIGHT-OF-WAY TO DENALI BOR. FOR RR/UTIL.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN JOHN TORGERSON called the Senate Resources Committee                                                                 
meeting  to order  at 6:25  pm and  announced  HB 244  to be up  for                                                            
consideration.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR TAYLOR  moved to adopt the Cook 5/1/01 committee  substitute                                                            
to HB 244. There were no objections and it was so ordered.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Staff  to  Representative  Dyson  said  the  sponsor  supported  the                                                            
committee substitute.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MS. VALERIE MUNDT,  Anchorage, said she has businesses  in Kantishna                                                            
and Fairbanks.  She opposed HB 244 because it eliminates  the public                                                            
process by preselecting  engineering and contracting firms to do the                                                            
work. There  is no  EIS and public  hearings in  Denali or  anywhere                                                            
north of the park on whether  there should be a railroad corridor or                                                            
a transportation corridor. She said:                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     Nenana has  long been in favor of a northern one-way  loop                                                                 
     road  through  the Park  that has  a regulated  amount  of                                                                 
     traffic  for  viewing.  This bill  eliminates  all animal                                                                  
     viewing  from the north  side. The train  doesn't stop  to                                                                 
     see the bears, so it further  reduces access of the public                                                                 
     and  limits  the experience.   Last, but  not  least,  the                                                                 
     Greater Fairbanks  Chamber of Commerce has voted  in favor                                                                 
     of  a northern access  corridor. On  many occasions,  they                                                                 
     were specifically asked  to put forward a resolution on HB
     244,  but  because of  objections  on  the floor,  it  was                                                                 
     returned  to the Government Affairs  Committee, which  has                                                                 
     not acted  on it, which is a voice in itself.  Finally, HB
     244 strains the already  existing businesses in Kantishna,                                                                 
     of which  there are five. The  Park Service has taken  the                                                                 
     stand that  inholders have one access to their  inholdings                                                                 
     and the Park Service gets  to decide what it is. All those                                                                 
     companies  that have  further  limited access  to a  train                                                                 
     that  they  don't  own  and  control.   I  thank  you  for                                                                 
     listening to my comments.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN  TORGERSON responded  that  there is $1.8  million for  the                                                            
planning,  EIS  and public  hearings  for  this issue  that  Senator                                                            
Murkowski put in the budget.  There's $350,000 in the capital budget                                                            
to match that for the same thing.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MAYOR JOHN  GONZALES, Denali  Borough, said  they have talked  for a                                                            
long time  about northern  access to Kantishna.  Whenever there's  a                                                            
way to  do something  about it,  it gets blocked.  The Assembly  has                                                            
supported  a northern access  by a railroad  because it is  the wise                                                            
thing  to do.  They wrote  a resolution  supporting  the efforts  of                                                            
Kantishna Holdings  to try and build an access into  Wonder Lake via                                                            
a railroad. "If  we can build a project that will  allow us to lease                                                            
land to  a group that is  willing to develop  something, we  believe                                                            
that as long as  it's safely done and the borough  agreed with that,                                                            
that we  should go  forth."   He said  they believe  that the  older                                                            
citizens  who cannot backpack  or kayak into  the wilderness  should                                                            
not be denied the beauty of the park.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  PEARCE asked  why this was  a railroad  corridor and  not a                                                            
transportation corridor.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MAYOR  GONZALES answered  that  the railroad  come to  them and  are                                                            
willing to put  up their dollars to do the project.  No one else has                                                            
done that.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR PEARCE  asked him if the borough  was going to make  sure an                                                            
EIS or an EA was done on this project.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MAYOR GONZALES answered  that the borough would make sure the EIS is                                                            
done.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR PEARCE  asked what  confidence they  have that the  National                                                            
Park Service  won't close road access  once there is another  right-                                                            
of-way, even if it's not a usable right-of-way in place.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MAYOR GONZALES answered that they don't have any assurance.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR TAYLOR  moved to  pass SCSHB 244  (RES) from committee  with                                                            
individual recommendations.  There were no objections  and it was so                                                            
ordered.                                                                                                                        

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