Legislature(1995 - 1996)

02/28/1996 05:13 PM FSH

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 HB 519 - APPROP: FISHERY ENFORCEMENT VESSEL                                 
 Number 0481                                                                   
 CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN read a portion of the sponsor statement for                
 HB519, which was also provided in the committee packets:                      
 "Enforcement of fishing laws is difficult over Alaska's vast                  
 distances.  The Department of Public Safety has need of a seaworthy           
 vessel of at least 150 feet for fishery law enforcement activities            
 in the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska.  With a reduction in                
 force of Coast Guard vessels, it is more important than ever to               
 provide the Department of Public Safety with the means to provide             
 fishery law enforcement.                                                      
 "On February 5, 1996, the state reached a settlement with Tyson               
 Seafoods that resolved the state's pending lawsuit against the                
 company's predecessor, Arctic Alaska Fisheries.  In the settlement,           
 Tyson agreed to pay the state $4.1 million in civil damages.  Money           
 from the settlement would go into the fish and game fund, which               
 could be used to purchase a new enforcement vessel.                           
 "There is a serious need for increased enforcement in Alaska's                
 waters.  When fishing grounds are protected, commercially important           
 species are permitted to maintain maximum populations.  Money                 
 appropriated for fishery enforcement will be recouped by violation            
 fines, landing taxes, and a healthier resource providing for                  
 increased fishermen incomes and tourists dollars."                            
 Number 0551                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON moved that HB 519 be put on the table for                
 discussion.  There being no objection, it was so ordered.                     
 Representative Elton referred to the fiscal note and said, "if you            
 add a vessel, you add skippers, you add mechanics, you add future             
 capital costs."  He asked that testifiers address that.                       
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS expressed that was his concern also.                     
 Number 0587                                                                   
 JOHN GLASS, COLONEL, Director, Central Office, Division of Fish and           
 Wildlife Protection, Department of Public Safety, expressed strong            
 support for HB 519.  "The purpose of this bill is to give us a                
 patrol vessel to patrol the Bering Sea, primarily," he said.  He              
 pointed out that the fisheries resource, which was a renewable                
 resource, was a multi-million-dollar industry in Alaska that needed           
 protection.  "Hopefully, with an enforcement vessel of this type,             
 we can continue to have our fishery resource available to use in              
 the future."  The requested vessel was a replacement for two                  
 vessels that had been, basically, decommissioned.  The 97-foot                
 patrol vessel Vigilant, used in the Bering Sea, had been                    
 decommissioned in 1992.  "It took a beating, a pounding, in the               
 Bering Sea for approximately 15 years and was ruled to be unsafe,"            
 Colonel Glass said.  In addition, the Polaris had been dry-docked           
 the previous year because of budgetary considerations; they had               
 since found that it was also unsafe.  He suggested they could put             
 a patch on that vessel to make it last another two or three years             
 before substantial repairs would be needed.                                   
 Number 0666                                                                   
 COLONEL GLASS referred to a hand-out he had provided to the                   
 committee, entitled "Draft FY 97 Vessel Plan," that showed the                
 potential patrols for the vessels.  "As you know," he said, "we               
 have a 121-foot vessel currently, the patrol vessel Woldstad, that          
 has and is being used in the Bering Sea Area.  This gives you an              
 approximation of what fisheries are out in the Bering Sea that a              
 vessel of this sort - a 150-foot vessel - could and would be                  
 actively participating in."  Colonel Glass explained the hand-out             
 also showed, by replacing the current patrol of the Woldstad with           
 the new vessel, where the Woldstad could be used for other                  
 fisheries.  "By obtaining a 150-foot vessel, we could get into some           
 of the areas that we are not able to patrol at all or are very                
 limited in scope," he said.  He noted that the commercial fisheries           
 and crab fisheries in the Bering Sea were rapidly changing.  The              
 Woldstad, built in 1982, "was not keeping up or maintaining the             
 technology that is going on with the fishing fleet," he said.                 
 Colonel Glass advised that Lieutenant Alan Cain, who had been a               
 vessel operator with the Division of Fish and Wildlife Protection             
 for the past 18 years, and who was knowledgeable about the Bering             
 Sea, was available to answer questions.                                       
 Number 0754                                                                   
 COLONEL GLASS said, "I look at the East Coast fisheries and see               
 what has happened to those over the years.  I do not wish or desire           
 that the same thing happen to our Alaska fisheries.  And by having            
 a vessel of this nature, we will at least be out there to cover               
 some of the fisheries we are supposed to be protecting."  He voiced           
 that the Department of Fish and Game had done an outstanding job of           
 managing the fisheries.  "But if we do not have some sort of an               
 enforcement, all the management in the world is not going to do us            
 any good and we will not have that renewable resource for our                 
 grandchildren," he concluded.                                                 
 Number 0785                                                                   
 CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN asked Colonel Glass to touch on the operational            
 costs of a new vessel and how that would affect his division's                
 COLONEL GLASS responded that the plan he had given the committee              
 showed what they wanted to do with the fisheries.  He explained               
 that when the legislature gave them a budget, they knew the cost of           
 the vessel and budgeted those days out.  "Currently," he said, "the           
 Woldstad is scheduled for 164 days.  This shows an increase because         
 we've added some other fisheries to that.  If we had the money,               
 this is what we would do."                                                    
 Number 0850                                                                   
 CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN thought that the concern was more that by adding           
 the vessel, there might not be funds next year to operate.                    
 COLONEL GLASS replied, "We would reduce some other fisheries and              
 put this vessel on line."  He explained that if they built a new              
 vessel, it would be 18 months to two years down the road.  "I will            
 come back to this body asking for more money for more sea days for            
 that vessel, for those fisheries, that's true," he added.  "We                
 would have to ... take one other vessel and alter its schedule to             
 operate these two vessels for approximately 100 days.  I would come           
 back to this body, or the legislature, asking for more sea days               
 down the road.  In order to effectively do our job, we have to have           
 those days," Colonel Glass concluded.                                         
 Number 0891                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON said, "I can't think of a more appropriate use           
 for this money."  He referred to Colonel Glass's initial testimony            
 about one vessel going into dry-dock for budgetary reasons.  He               
 expressed concern that if they took the $4.l million and converted            
 it to a vessel, that vessel might also remain in dry-dock for                 
 budgetary reasons.                                                            
 Number 0930                                                                   
 COLONEL GLASS responded, "We can share those concerns with you.               
 This is a one-time opportunity that has presented itself to the               
 state, that this body can give us a patrol vessel that will last              
 into the 21st century, if you will, for the enforcement.  There's             
 probably, in my opinion, no larger single item that we can do for             
 the fisheries enforcement than buy this boat.  We will work around            
 the monies that we are given, as we do now, and get the most bang             
 for our buck for this vessel or any vessel that we have and                   
 operate.  Yes, it will be reductions in places, but we also have a            
 safety issue in the Bering Sea.  We have a 121-foot vessel.  We               
 have a fishery that's out on the Aleutian Peninsula that has gone             
 now to ten-by-ten pots; we can't even inspect those ten-by-ten pots           
 with the current vessels that we have, and we need the                        
 modernization of the equipment to do that."                                   
 Number 0983                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE MOSES said he thought it could be proven that with             
 a capable, adequate vessel, the additional fines coming in would              
 more than pay for the operation of the vessel.  "And that's been              
 proven up in Bristol Bay," he added.  "In some cases, it's four or            
 five times the cost of the enforcement operation."                            
 Number 1010                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS said, "It seems a little strange that the                
 Tyson settlement was $4.l million and the request is $4.1 million.            
 Tyson doesn't have a boat they want to sell you, do they, to take             
 care of their debt?"                                                          
 Number 1020                                                                   
 COLONEL GLASS replied, "I wish they did because then we could put             
 it into use tomorrow instead of two years down the road."  He                 
 added, in response to Representative Elton's concern, that his                
 division had also been in contact with the Department of Fish and             
 Game.  "As you will see, on some of that, they are interested," he            
 said.  "The fisheries are expanding out there; they're changing.              
 We've talked with them.  They have come on board and want to use              
 this vessel also for research on the fisheries that are going on              
 out there.  With a few modifications of this vessel, that can be              
 accommodated.  So, it's going to be, if you will, a multi-purpose             
 vessel, not just solely for us."                                              
 Number 1068                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON thanked Colonel Glass and said, "I don't                 
 disagree with anything you say.  I guess I'm just cynical about us            
 living up to our responsibility.  I have no doubt at all that                 
 you'll live up to your responsibility.  I just hope we give you the           
 resources to do it."                                                          
 COLONEL GLASS replied, "We sure hope so, too, and that's why we're            
 here.  It's extremely important to us and to the fishery.                     
 Number 1091                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE MOSES moved that HB 519 bill move out of committee             
 with individual recommendations.  There being no objection, it was            
 so ordered.                                                                   

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