Legislature(2009 - 2010)BUTROVICH 205
04/15/2009 03:30 PM RESOURCES
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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SJR 22-FEDERAL PREEMPTION OF SALMON MANAGEMENT 4:09:04 PM CHAIR MCGUIRE announced the consideration of SJR 22. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI moved to adopt proposed committee substitute (CS) for SJR 22, labeled 26-LS0866\R as the working document. There being no objection, version R was before the committee. SENATOR HUGGINS, sponsor of SJR 22, said his aide will present the bill and describe how the United Cook Inlet Drift Association (UCIDA) has "grabbed a tiger by the tail" in this instance. SHARON LONG, Staff to Senator Huggins, said SJR 22 takes aim at the lawsuit filed by the United Cook Inlet Drift Association (UCIDA). The complaint, calling for the return of federal management, is an affront to this state. It was a colossal failure of federal salmon management that largely drove the statehood movement. UCIDA fishers participate in gillnet and drift gillnet in Cook Inlet and can keep an unlimited number of commercially caught fish for personal use. Their goal is to have the state-managed personal-use dipnet fishery declared unconstitutional and preempted by federal law. SJR 22 seeks a fair shake for Alaskans who dipnet fish without commercial gear. It asks the governor to intervene in defense of the state's authority to responsibly manage its fisheries. 4:10:55 PM SENATOR FRENCH asked the source of the "Whereas" clause relating to the UCIDA's desire to outlaw personal dipnetting. MS. LONG said UCIDA claims that they are harmed by state regulations pertaining to salmon management in Cook Inlet. The relief they ask for is to declare that the state authorized resident only salmon fisheries in Cook Inlet are unconstitutional and therefore preempted by federal law. SENATOR FRENCH said he would call that black and white. SENATOR HUGGINS added that his neighbors and many of his friends have been very tolerant "over the piece of where you live and how you get to fish." The salmon task force talked about the sizeable number of commercial fishers in Cook Inlet, residents and non-residents alike. Rod and reel fishers would likely say those commercial fishers have almost no limit. Now this group is saying they want to preempt his friends and neighbors who dipnet because non-resident commercial dipnetters can't dipfish. "There is something wrong with that." Hence my comment about their having a tiger by the tail, he said. 4:13:28 PM SENATOR WAGONER said his understanding is that this started as a petition to the Secretary of Commerce. It was ignored and the time ran out on the petition. The lawsuit was filed out of frustration and was an effort to get the attention of the Secretary of Commerce. However, even that hasn't elicited a response or comment from the Secretary of Commerce. 4:14:36 PM SENATOR HUGGINS said he doesn't disagree, but now it is a lawsuit. The beauty of it is that a number of people who are commercial fishers want to sign on to this resolution because this is against Alaskans and the Alaskan way of life. He predicts others will also sign on because Alaskans will not allow this sort of thing happen. ROD ARNO, Executive Director, Alaska Outdoor Council (AOC), said AOC represents 10,000 Alaskans and advocates for Alaskans that participate in the harvest of wild food. The dipnet fisheries in Chitina and the fisheries in the Kenai and Kasilof rivers are important sources of wild food for thousands of Alaskan families. AOC is opposed to the lawsuit and in support of SJR 22. The idea of having this suit going to the federal court, preempting state rights and the Submerged Lands Act is dangerous for the state of Alaska. 4:17:23 PM RON SOMERVILLE, Territorial Sportsmen board member, Juneau, said if the lawsuit were successful it would target nearly all resident-only fisheries. The lawsuit addresses Cook Inlet but there is a Jenson case in Cordova that is identical. "Where does it stop?" The state should be interested, but can't just file an amicus brief. If the governor will not do that, the legislative council should consider the options. It is an affront to Alaskans to try to preempt state management; that was the essence of seeking statehood. 4:19:05 PM RICKY GEASE, Executive Director, Kenai River Sportfishing Association, Soldotna, said KRSA is a fishery conservation organization. He agrees with previous two testifiers. He suggested expanding the scope of the resolution to include the similar Jensen lawsuit. It is important for the state to intervene in both lawsuits in case there are out of court settlements, he said. The lead attorney for these lawsuits indicated they are seeking out of court settlements, such as personal use dipnet fishing on the Kenai River only occurring after the upper end of the escapement goal has been achieved. Predictability is important for people to plan vacations to go dipnetting. The association supports an out of court settlement that involves oversight by the Board of Fisheries and ADF&G management. BYRON HALEY, President, Chitina Dipnetters Association, Fairbanks, stated strong support for SJR 22. Commercial fishers have been trying to close this dipnet fishery for a long time. This is another tool they are using. 4:21:48 PM CHAIR MCGUIRE closed public testimony and asked Senator Huggins if he wanted to offer an amendment. SENATOR HUGGINS replied he would need to do the research. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI said he would support expanding the resolution to include the Jenson case and others. He suggested a conceptual amendment. SENATOR HUGGINS moved conceptual Amendment 1 to incorporate into SJR 22 the essence of the [Herbert T.] Jensen lawsuit. Hearing no objection, Amendment 1 was adopted. CHAIR MCGUIRE said a neighbor recently reminded her how important dipnetting is to his feeding his large family in the winter. If affects Alaskans. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI moved to report CS for SJR 22, version R as amended, from committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal note(s). SENATOR WAGONER objected saying that he would like to hear testimony from the people who wrote the lawsuit. He noted that it has been said that the process in this committee is to hear a bill and to move it the next hearing. If that's the standard procedure then it should be followed. He removed his objection. CHAIR MCGUIRE said fair enough. 4:25:25 PM MS. LONG noted that the legislative drafters said this was filed on March 7 and according to court rules intervention should be done by early to mid-May. CHAIR MCGUIRE said she is aware of that and the committee generally moves expeditiously. Finding no further objection, CSSJR 22(RES) moved from committee.