Legislature(2005 - 2006)BELTZ 211
04/10/2006 01:30 PM COMMUNITY & REGIONAL AFFAIRS
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ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE SENATE COMMUNITY AND REGIONAL AFFAIRS STANDING COMMITTEE April 10, 2006 2:05 p.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Senator Bert Stedman, Chair Senator Gary Stevens, Vice Chair Senator Thomas Wagoner Senator Albert Kookesh MEMBERS ABSENT Senator Johnny Ellis COMMITTEE CALENDAR CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 395(FIN) "An Act relating to the period of the fire season; and providing for an effective date." MOVED CSHB 395(FIN) OUT OF COMMITTEE PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION BILL: HB 395 SHORT TITLE: FIRE SEASON DATES SPONSOR(s): REPRESENTATIVE(s) OLSON 01/25/06 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS 01/25/06 (H) RES, FIN 02/06/06 (H) RES AT 1:00 PM CAPITOL 124 02/06/06 (H) Moved Out of Committee 02/06/06 (H) MINUTE(RES) 02/08/06 (H) RES RPT 6DP 1NR 02/08/06 (H) DP: GATTO, ELKINS, LEDOUX, CRAWFORD, OLSON, RAMRAS; 02/08/06 (H) NR: SAMUELS 02/14/06 (H) FIN AT 1:30 PM HOUSE FINANCE 519 02/14/06 (H) Heard & Held 02/14/06 (H) MINUTE(FIN) 03/02/06 (H) FIN AT 1:30 PM HOUSE FINANCE 519 03/02/06 (H) Moved CSHB 395(FIN) Out of Committee 03/02/06 (H) MINUTE(FIN) 03/06/06 (H) FIN RPT CS(FIN) NT 5DP 2NR 1AM 03/06/06 (H) DP: HAWKER, FOSTER, KELLY, MEYER, CHENAULT; 03/06/06 (H) NR: JOULE, HOLM; 03/06/06 (H) AM: WEYHRAUCH 03/22/06 (H) TRANSMITTED TO (S) 03/22/06 (H) VERSION: CSHB 395(FIN) 03/24/06 (S) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS 03/24/06 (S) CRA, RES WITNESS REGISTER Konrad Jackson, Staff Representative Kurt Olson Alaska State Capitol Juneau, AK 99801-1182 POSITION STATEMENT: Introduced HB 395 Lynn Wilcox, Fire Program Manager Division of Forestry Department of Natural Resources 400 Willoughby Ave. Juneau, AK 99801-1724 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of HB 395 Steve Gibson Small Potatoes Lumber Company Homer, AK POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of HB 395 ACTION NARRATIVE CHAIR BERT STEDMAN called the Senate Community and Regional Affairs Standing Committee meeting to order at 2:05:38 PM. Present were Senator Gary Stevens, Senator Thomas Wagoner, and Chair Bert Stedman. HB 395-FIRE SEASON DATES 2:06:13 PM CHAIR BERT STEDMAN announced HB 395 to be up for consideration. KONRAD JACKSON, Staff to Representative Kurt Olson, explained that HB 395 starts and ends the fire season one month earlier. Doing so allows the Division of Forestry to get seasonal firefighting personnel and equipment in place and ready to fight the early-season fires that have become much more prevalent with the changing Alaska weather. MR. JACKSON outlined some of the early-season fires including the 2005 Tracy Avenue Fire that was one of the earliest complex fires in state history. When it started, just one firefighting aircraft was in the state and it was diverted to three other fires on its way to Homer. He drew attention to the maps in the packets showing the major Kenai Peninsula fires since 1996 as well as the areas in Southcentral Alaska that have been hit by the spruce bark beetle. Since man is a main cause of the pre-green-up fires, setting the fire season start date one month earlier will help with public awareness programs and that might help prevent some of those early fires, he said. 2:10:34 PM SENATOR GARY STEVENS acknowledged the importance of starting the fire season earlier, but he questioned whether September fires weren't an issue. MR. JACKSON replied fires do extend beyond the current September 30 end of fire season and sometimes DNR has had to ask for supplemental money. That would probably continue to be the case, but the reason for changing the end date as well was to keep the fiscal note at zero. SENATOR GARY STEVENS said that's understandable but if the reality is that fire danger extends into September that merits consideration. MR. JACKSON replied once the equipment is in place it's easier to fight fires. If there were a fire in September the equipment might still be in place. SENATOR WAGONER said he'd like to hear from the department about the dew point and the amount of rainfall in September versus April. 2:14:07 PM LYNN WILCOX, Fire Program Manager, Division of Forestry, Department of Natural Resources (DNR), said it's the early- season fires that have been problematic because fire equipment isn't in place and people haven't been trained. Furthermore, he said, April is historically the driest month of the year in Alaska. The wet season typically starts in late July or early August and continues into September with just one high in that period. The last two years are contrary to historical averages though and more than 3 million acres burned in August 2004 and 2005. September is typically the end of lightening-caused fires and the issue then becomes human-caused fires. However, if there are ongoing fires as in the last two years, they often continue through August and still pose problems through part of September. 2:16:32 PM STEVE GIBSON, Homer logger, said he had two points to make. First, springs are warmer now than in years past so the fire danger is high earlier than it used to be. Second, the spruce bark beetle epidemic has caused the fire danger level to rise dramatically all over Southcentral Alaska regardless of whether or not an area has been logged. The mixture of grass and beetle kill makes a fast-moving fire that is hard to fight. CHAIR STEDMAN asked if he cuts and mills beetle-killed spruce before or after a fire. MR. GIBSON said as a one-horse sawmill he doesn't target burned timber, but he has milled it on occasion. 2:20:35 PM CHAIR STEDMAN noted there was no further testimony or questions and he was ready for a motion. SENATOR GARY STEVENS motioned to report CSHB 395(FIN) and attached fiscal note(s) from committee with individual recommendations. There being no objection, it was so ordered. There being no further business to come before the committee, Chair Stedman adjourned the meeting at 2:21:19 PM.