Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205
04/11/2005 03:30 PM RESOURCES
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 85-OFF-ROAD VEHICLE USE ON DALTON HIGHWAY CHAIR THOMAS WAGONER announced SB 85 to be up for consideration. SENATOR SEEKINS moved to adopt the letter of intent. There were no objections and it was so ordered. 3:39:46 PM MIKE BELL testified on behalf of the oil trucking industry and said that the Dalton Highway was not designed with recreational vehicles in mind. It has no shoulders and there is no enforcement. Safe driving is up to the judgment and experience of individual drivers. Opening up the road will encourage more users. He suggested upgrading shoulders if this bill happens to pass. 3:42:45 PM HEIDI SCHOPPENHART, Wiseman lodge owner, opposed SB 85 urging the committee to think seriously about what the bill really does. The Dalton Highway was developed as a utility corridor. People are already able to travel on it and it attracts visitors from all over the world. 3:45:51 PM VARSHA MATHRANI, Environmental Health Coordinator, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Anchorage, said she is speaking on her own behalf in opposition to SB 85. She has graduate training in environmental health sciences from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor's Degree in Biology focusing on environmental and ecosystem science. She has also worked at Toolik Research Field Station and in the Brooks Range where the University of Alaska Fairbanks does state-of-the-art Arctic field and lab research. She opposed SB 85 because of what it would do to the pristine untouched tundra in the Arctic and the consequences it would have on current and future scientific research. Further, she said SB 85 would be economically burdensome for state agencies and would violate long-standing promises made to local area residents. She said: The implications on scientific research are real as tracks formed in the Arctic are long-lasting and pretty much permanent. It can affect the biogeochemistry of this area profoundly. It also has negative effects on wildlife from noise and pollution and local Native populations who use this area for subsistence.... 3:49:33 PM WILLIE DUNNE, hunter, fisher and biologist for 30 years said he lives adjacent to the Anchor River watershed, a wonderful area for salmon and steelhead fishing. He testified that: We have a Kenai area plan that is designed to regulate uses of the lands. We also have laws, which prohibit the use of motorized vehicles in salmon spawning streams. Despite all that, we have a great deal of damage from ATVs in our salmon spawning streams. MR. DUNNE presented the committee with photographs of some of the damaged Anchor River watershed areas. Sedimentation has been documented that affects both the salmon fry and the eggs. Rechannelization cuts off spawning areas and isolates fry from their egress out to the river. "Basically, despite having laws to try and prevent this, we have had an incredible amount of damage from ATVs in the Anchor River watershed." 3:52:06 PM SENATOR GUESS joined the committee. 3:52:51 PM JULES DUNNE said she felt the existing statute making nonmotorized access possible is working well and opposed SB 85. Opening the corridor to off-road vehicles would have devastating irreparable long-term effects on the fragile ecosystem. It opens the door to many legal, safety and enforcement problems that there is no fiscal note for. It makes more sense to plan ahead for the necessary regulations and provide the funding now. 3:53:59 PM DAVID NUETZEL opposed SB 85. He has traveled the entire distance to the North Slope and said the existing law is working well. He said there are only two law enforcement personnel for the entire area and he didn't see where funding would come for more. He pointed out that SB 85 doesn't create any new standards, but only repeals the existing law. The whole area could be destroyed at once. 3:56:26 PM JEREMY MINER, Fairbanks resident, asked what the motivation is for repealing the law without consideration of its effects on the land. One year is not long enough to adequately study the issue if this bill passes. He suggested allowing local, state and federal officials to develop management plans and impact assessments beforehand and providing funding for them. Once the findings are made public, specific sections of the law could be addressed rather than just repealing the whole thing. 3:58:12 PM DARCY WARDEN, Fairbanks resident, said she formerly lived in Galena. She likes having the opportunity to hunt and fish. If the five-mile corridor were opened up, use activities would change; there would be damage from off road vehicles including damage to nesting birds. She emphasized that tundra damage is not repairable. 4:00:09 PM JULIA SMITH, Anchorage, opposed SB 85. There are no limitations or regulations and people will get into trouble. She wanted to know where the money to rescue people would come from. She said the Dalton Highway has limited services; sometimes people have to beg for gas from the pipeline businesses located there. 4:02:34 PM SENATOR FRED DYSON asked if she feels that public lands shouldn't be opened up to the general public. MS. SMITH replied that she thought that limitations should be put in place depending on where the land is and how dangerous it is. SENATOR DYSON asked if people going into the wilderness should be forced to go to classes or go through an inspection before going out and dealing with the risks. MS. SMITH replied that they should have some training. 4:03:48 PM LEWIS THEIA, testifying in Juneau, said the original protection for the road, which is in the pipeline corridor, is quid pro quo to get allowances for pipeline construction. He is proud of the stewardship the state has exhibited over the past 30 years. If the eyes of the nation are on ANWR, he thought it would be a poor choice on state's part to abandon protection of this corridor. He said: On the contrary, we should hold it up as an example of follow-through of responsible development. I think good stewardship is consistency and good business for Alaska. 4:04:44 PM CHAIR WAGONER closed the public hearing saying he would hold the bill in committee this year. He plans to hold hearings in Barrow, Fairbanks and Coldfoot to get more of a feel for how the public thinks about it. 4:06:12 PM SENATOR GUESS said she dealt with this in the Judiciary Committee and asked what the zero fiscal note from the Department of Public Safety means. 4:06:39 PM SENATOR SEEKINS replied the bill itself does not create a fiscal note for a number of reasons. First, the Department of Public Safety has not said that they think there is any reason at this point to increase traffic in order to be able to take care of visitors. There's an extended effective date - the planning process will take some time. DNR has said they don't believe that there is a huge planning process that will have to take place for them to be able to take a look at some of these things. The first 180 miles of the road is federal property. The BLM has had a land use plan on the shelf - a draft plan - since 1991. They will go through the public hearing process to be able to take into consideration the thoughts of the people along the route...what affects it might have on different animal species.... 4:07:47 PM SENATOR BEN STEVENS joined the committee. 4:07:56 PM SENATOR SEEKINS continued explaining that the Board of Game said it would look at changes out of cycle if need be and while there might be fiscal impacts down the road, much of the thought behind the planning has already taken place. The landowners have anticipated that there will be demand from people to access public lands and the federal portion or the road already has campgrounds, pullouts and restrooms. 4:10:59 PM SENATOR SEEKINS moved SB 85 from committee with the letter of intent and individual recommendations. SENATOR ELTON objected to say if that kind of outreach is happening to people along the corridor, then it makes sense to keep SB 85 in this standing committee. The bill could be moved in January 2006. CHAIR WAGONER said the agreement is to move it to Rules. If the Resources Committee wanted it back, he was sure he could get it. SENATOR ELTON removed his objection. SENATOR SEEKINS explained his agreement with the Rules Committee is that the bill would be brought back after the public had testified on it. Therefore, SB 85 moved from committee with the attached letter of intent.