Legislature(2001 - 2002)
05/03/2001 06:25 PM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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.