Legislature(1995 - 1996)

02/08/1995 01:34 PM House FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
  HOUSE BILL NO. 58                                                            
       "An  Act  establishing  the  Chickaloon Flats  Critical                 
       Habitat Area."                                                          
  PATTY  SWENSON,  STAFF,  REPRESENTATIVE  BUNDE testified  in                 
  support  of  HB  58.   She  noted  that  the legislation  is                 
  accompanied by  a zero  fiscal note  from the  Department of                 
  Fish and  Game.  She explained that the  purpose of HB 58 is                 
  to  establish  the Chickaloon  Critical  Habitat Area.   She                 
  asserted  that the  designation will  protect the  waterfowl                 
  habitat in Cook Inlet.  She emphasized that, in the Fall, up                 
  to  25,000 birds use  this area daily.   She  added that the                 
  area is used by hunters who access the area by  float plane,                 
  boat and four wheel drive vehicles.                                          
  Ms. Swenson stressed  that "critical  habitat" is the  least                 
  restrictive of all land designations.   She stated that  the                 
  uses specified in  the legislation  are compatible and  will                 
  continue.  She noted  that there are  no oil and gas  leases                 
  presently in  the area.   She observed that  the legislation                 
  received  support  from  various  groups  during  the  House                 
  Resources Committee hearings.                                                
  In response  to a  question by  Representative Kohring,  Ms.                 
  Swenson noted that  the designation will be  permanent.  She                 
  reiterated that the area is heavily used by waterfowl.                       
  GAME  stressed the  importance  of the  area  as a  wildlife                 
  Representative Kohring noted that the area would remain open                 
  to  oil  and  gas  activity.    Mr. Bruce  stated  that  the                 
  designation would provide that the area is managed primarily                 
  to protect critical fish and  wildlife habitat.  Other  uses                 
  are  permitted  as  long  as  they  are  compatible  to  the                 
  protection  of the  habitat.   He noted that  pipelines runs                 
  through some  critical habitats.   He  stressed that  of 212                 
  applications  for special area permits in critical habitats,                 
  refuges  and sanctuaries  only  two were  denied.   The area                 
  would be open to multiple use with the caveat that the  uses                 
  be consistent with the protection of fish and wildlife.                      
  In response to a question by Representative Kelly, Mr. Bruce                 
  clarified that Department of Fish and Game's staff will make                 
  the determinations of  compatible use  in regards to  permit                 
  Representatives Kelly and Parnell expressed concern that the                 
  guiding  criteria  of  "compatible  use"  is open  to  broad                 
  interpretation.    Mr. Bruce  stressed  that it  is  not the                 
  intention  of   the  Department   to  prohibit   hunting  or                 
  harvesting of fish  and wildlife.   He pointed out that  the                 
  legislation  is  designed  to  provide   protection  to  the                 
  environment which  supports fish and wildlife population for                 
  use by citizens.                                                             
  In response to a question by Representative Grussendorf, Mr.                 
  Bruce emphasized that the Department  of Fish and Game works                 
  with applicants to  allow requested  activities in a  manner                 
  which will  not damage the habitat.  A permit is denied only                 
  if there is no  way to allow an  activity without damage  to                 
  the habitat.                                                                 
  Representative Brown asked how  the designation changes  the                 
  land management.  Mr. Bruce  reiterated that the designation                 
  makes the protection  of the fish  and wildlife habitat  the                 
  primary purpose for which the land is managed.                               
  Mr.  Bruce  further explained  that  oil and  gas activities                 
  would be permitted on a site  specific basis if the activity                 
  does  not   endanger  the   habitat's  ability  to   support                 
  waterfowl.  The area  has not been offered  for oil and  gas                 
  leases during the past five years.                                           
  Representative  Kelly   asked  if  the  area   is  currently                 
  threatened.  Ms. Swenson stated that  the impact due to high                 
  population  growth  in the  Anchorage  area is  the greatest                 
  concern.  Mr.  Bruce added  that concerned individual's  who                 
  use the  area want  to assure  that it  remains healthy  for                 
  future  generations of  Alaskans to  enjoy.   He noted  that                 
  Alaska's population grew  by 40  percent from  1979 -  1992.                 
  The  Department  of  Labor  projects  a further  40  percent                 
  increase in population over the next fifteen years.                          
  Representative Navarre MOVED to report  CSHB 58 (RES) out of                 
  Committee  with  individual  recommendations  and  with  the                 
  accompanying fiscal note.                                                    
  CSHB 58 (RES) was reported out of Committee with a "do pass"                 
  recommendation and with a zero fiscal note by the Department                 
  of Fish and Game, dated 2/3/95.                                              

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