Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205

04/11/2005 03:30 PM RESOURCES

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved SB 85 Out of Committee
Heard & Held
Moved CSHB 198(RES)(title am)
         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                                                               
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                                                                    
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                                                               
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                                                                    
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.                                                                                                      

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