Legislature(1993 - 1994)

03/26/1993 08:00 AM House RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
  MR. NIEMEYER explained that the mission of the Water                         
  Resources Board was to ensure that there was wise water                      
  management in the state.  He noted that for the past year                    
  the board had not been funded and members had served at                      
  their own expense.  He referred to legislation pertinent to                  
  the Water Resources Board, including HB 111 and SB 80.                       
  House Bill 111, he said, proposes to repeal the board.  This                 
  proposal, he believed, makes little sense because the board                  
  operates at little expense to the state.                                     
  MR. NIEMEYER explained that SB 80 combines the Water                         
  Resources Board with the Soil and Water Conservation Board.                  
  In effect, he said, the bill would turn the functions of the                 
  Water Resources Board over to the Soil and Water                             
  Conservation Board.  He cautioned that water management                      
  issues would be compromised by the creation of a joint                       
  Number 115                                                                   
  MR. NIEMEYER explained the history of the board, which had                   
  operated for over 20 years.  He said the board serves as an                  
  advocate for the state's position on water management, and                   
  is involved in controversial water issues.  Most recently,                   
  he said the board was involved in the development of the                     
  Kenai Groundwater Task Force, and has been an advocate for                   
  village safe water programs.                                                 
  Number 160                                                                   
  MR. NIEMEYER related some of the other activities of the                     
  Water Resources Board, which include working closely                         
  together with user groups to work out problems and creating                  
  programs that will generate revenues.  He noted the work of                  
  the Water Division in the Department of Natural Resources                    
  (DNR) in developing a water export program.  Although the                    
  idea has not been widely accepted, he said the DNR is                        
  looking seriously at water export as a source of revenue                     
  generation for the state.                                                    
  Number 240                                                                   
  MR. NIEMEYER described some of the other principal functions                 
  and programs performed by the Water Resources Board or for                   
  which the board serves in an advisory capacity.  Among them                  
  were hydrologic surveys, maintenance of stream gauging                       
  records and water studies required for construction of                       
  bridges or roads.  He said 11 hydrologists in the DNR                        
  perform those functions and that continuity in their data-                   
  gathering is very important, but is at risk in the face of                   
  budget cuts.  The Water Resource Board, he said, is an                       
  active proponent of keeping the hydrologists in the                          
  department to maintain those programs.                                       
  Number 310                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE JEANNETTE JAMES asked Mr. Niemeyer when the                   
  Water Resources Board was authorized.                                        
  MR. NIEMEYER replied that the board was authorized in                        
  statute by  AS 46, at about the time of the Water Use Act in                 
  the 1960's.                                                                  
  Number 315                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE JAMES asked how members are selected and                      
  Number 320                                                                   
  MR. NIEMEYER replied that persons interested in serving on                   
  the board contact the governor's office, and those who are                   
  appointed serve four-year terms.  He said the board has                      
  benefitted from continuity in its membership over the years,                 
  except for the higher than usual turnover in the past five                   
  Number 339                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE CON BUNDE referred to the Water Resources                     
  Board's fact sheet, dated September, 1992, produced by the                   
  DNR's Division of Water.  He asked Mr. Niemeyer to describe                  
  the board's legislative priorities.                                          
  MR. NIEMEYER explained that the board's highest priority was                 
  to obtain funding for the Water Division.  He said the board                 
  had worked for 20 years to have that division created, and                   
  that with budget cuts, the programs provided by that                         
  division are in jeopardy of being lost.                                      
  Number 366                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE commented on the export of Alaska's                     
  water resources, and noted that the environmental impact of                  
  such an action would be very complex.  He noted that the                     
  cost of such big projects may not be a wise investment in                    
  light of budget cuts that might eliminate state hydrologists                 
  who provide important field services to the citizens of                      
  Number 390                                                                   
  WAYNE WESTBERG, WATER RESOURCES BOARD MEMBER, explained that                 
  the investigation of water export possibilities has not been                 
  a major expense to the state, in that only one person is                     
  employed on that project in the Division of Water.  He said                  
  the water export project does not impact the delivery of                     
  other water-related services.  The board initiated DNR's                     
  water rights program, he said.  Although it had been in                      
  statutes, Mr. Westberg told the committee that it had not                    
  been implemented until the board pushed for action.  If the                  
  DNR loses its hydrologists, he said the water rights program                 
  would be drastically affected.                                               
  MR. WESTBERG predicted that a backlog of water rights                        
  applications would result if the hydrologists' budget were                   
  cut too far.                                                                 
  REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE commented that the hydrologists in the                  
  field should be the highest priority.                                        
  Number 422                                                                   
  MR. NIEMEYER distributed a position paper prepared by the                    
  Division of Water on water exports, dated March 17, 1993.                    
  He also distributed an attachment, also prepared by the                      
  Division of Water, relating to the FY 94 budget.                             
  Number 438                                                                   
  CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS noted for the record that Representatives                  
  Davies, Finkelstein and Bunde had joined the meeting since                   
  the call to order.  He referred to the next item on the                      
  agenda, HB 213, which he explained, had been previously                      
  heard by the Resources Committee on March 22, 1993.  He                      
  noted that the amendments suggested at that meeting had led                  
  to a blank committee substitute draft, as well as two                        
  additional amendments, A.8 and A.9.                                          

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