Legislature(1993 - 1994)

04/16/1993 08:00 AM RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
  CHAIRMAN BILL WILLIAMS announced that the meeting would be                   
  held by teleconference with sites in Fairbanks, Tanana, and                  
  Nome, for the purpose of hearing HB 183 and HB 182.  Because                 
  the bills are closely related, he explained they would be                    
  heard together, but would be voted on separately when the                    
  time came to take action on each bill.                                       
  HB 182:  APPROP: FAIRBANKS-NOME TRANS. CORRIDOR                              
  HB 183:  TRANSPORTATION CORRIDOR: FAIRBANKS-NOME                             
  and HB 183, explained that HB 182 appropriates $7.3 million                  
  to initiate the action authorized in HB 183.  This involves                  
  preliminary action in studying a potential corridor for                      
  transportation and utilities between Fairbanks and Nome.                     
  Number 038                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE JAMES explained that the state needs to                       
  expand its infrastructure, and HB 183 directs the Department                 
  of Transportation (DOT) to conduct the necessary surveying,                  
  reconnaissance photography and other research that would                     
  lead to a future rail or road corridor between Fairbanks and                 
  the Seward Peninsula.  She noted that a railway would offer                  
  the most environmentally sound and controlled access, while                  
  requiring less maintenance cost.  Another cost savings of a                  
  railway as opposed to a highway, she said, would be on state                 
  trooper coverage of the route.                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE JAMES stressed that gaining access to mineral                 
  resources located in Northwestern Alaska was critical to                     
  Alaska's economic future.  She referred to a blank draft                     
  committee substitute (CS) for HB 183, dated 4/12/93, in                      
  members' packets, which included the addition of items (f)                   
  and (g) on page 3, specifying the definition of "corridor"                   
  and allowing for alternative funding sources for the                         
  project.  She then referred to a map which showed the                        
  resources located within the general corridor area.  (A copy                 
  of the map may be found in the House Resources Committee                     
  Room, Capitol Room 124, and after the adjournment of the                     
  second session of the 18th Alaska State Legislature, in the                  
  Legislative Reference Library.)                                              
  Number 088                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE JOE GREEN noted that the language in HB 183                   
  referred to development of either a road or railway, and                     
  asked Representative James to clarify which was preferred,                   
  or whether both were to be built.                                            
  REPRESENTATIVE JAMES reiterated her support of a railroad,                   
  but noted that the decision should best be left to future                    
  generations who would see the corridor actually developed.                   
  The map, she explained, shows a possible corridor route and                  
  potential mineral access.  The criteria for the corridor                     
  would include how practical it would be to build in certain                  
  Number 124                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked if the potential corridor route                   
  was selected to be the most cost-effective, the most direct,                 
  or the least damaging to the environment.                                    
  REPRESENTATIVE JAMES replied that a number of factors would                  
  be taken into consideration, including the location of                       
  villages along the route, access to minerals, environmental                  
  effects, and cost.                                                           
  Number 142                                                                   
  CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS referred to the draft CS, and the language                 
  on page 3, line 2, which allows the commissioner of the DOT                  
  to "accept gifts."                                                           
  REPRESENTATIVE JAMES explained that the language was                         
  intended to make it possible for funding to come from                        
  private and other sources.  She was willing to work with the                 
  committee on the exact wording to allow flexibility in                       
  Number 182                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE GREEN suggested the wording be changed to                     
  "may accept funding from legal sources."  He made a MOTION                   
  to AMEND the draft CS to reflect that the DOT's commissioner                 
  should be able to accept legal grants and gifts for funding                  
  the project.                                                                 
  CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS asked if there were any objections to the                  
  motion.  Hearing none, the MOTION PASSED.                                    
  Number 200                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE CON BUNDE asked whether the corridor would                    
  extend to the Canadian border.                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE JAMES noted that there is an existing                         
  corridor from the Canadian border to Eielson Air Force base.                 
  She referred to HB 183, which examines the estimated costs                   
  for extending the corridor.                                                  
  Number 216                                                                   
  CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS noted that Representative David                            
  Finkelstein had joined the meeting.                                          
  REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked whether the corridor would cross                  
  federal or Native-owned lands.                                               
  REPRESENTATIVE JAMES replied that the state has been                         
  selecting lands in prospective corridors.  She noted that                    
  the Bering Straits Native Association had indicated a                        
  preference for leasing their lands, and she added that there                 
  are some federal wilderness areas within the proposed                        
  corridor.   Before settling land ownership issues, she                       
  explained, the state first had to identify the potential                     
  corridor route.                                                              
  CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS announced the committee would next hear                    
  teleconference testimony, with the first site being Nome.                    
  Number 247                                                                   
  JIM STIMPFLE, NOME CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, testifying by                        
  teleconference from Nome, noted that he had not yet seen the                 
  draft CS.  He said that from the descriptions of the changes                 
  in the CS, he believed it would accommodate future                           
  Number 260                                                                   
  MR. STIMPFLE noted that some of the issues he felt were                      
  important for the committee to consider surrounded the fact                  
  that this would be a large project that might not come about                 
  for a number of years.  Passage of HB 182 and HB 183, he                     
  said, would send a signal to Alaskans that such a project is                 
  important for the future of the state to broaden its                         
  economic base.  While revenues are currently declining, he                   
  said, it remains important to make investments that will pay                 
  off in the future.                                                           
  MR. STIMPFLE remarked on some concerns he heard raised in                    
  Nome, from land owners, village corporations, and regional                   
  corporations.  He felt the concerns could be addressed to                    
  the benefit of the state and those interests.  He commented                  
  that those village and regional corporations want to see                     
  development of a utility and transportation corridor either                  
  nearby or across their lands.  Regarding the corridor's                      
  involvement of private, federal and Native-owned lands, he                   
  said that in his own review of the project, it appeared that                 
  at least 50% of the right of way to the lands between the                    
  Seward Peninsula and Fairbanks is on federal lands.                          
  MR. STIMPFLE said the remaining 50% is divided between the                   
  state and other major land-owners, including village and                     
  regional corporations.                                                       
  Number 312                                                                   
  MR. STIMPFLE suggested that by shifting the corridor between                 
  six to 25 miles, the state could maximize either village                     
  participation or state lands.  If people who live along any                  
  proposed right-of-way are interested in the corridor, he                     
  predicted the project could go forward.  He urged the                        
  committee to give serious consideration to HB 182 and                        
  HB 183.                                                                      
  FRANK IRELAN, testified by teleconference from Nome.  He                     
  expressed concern that the result of including language in                   
  HB 183 allowing private funding of the corridor project                      
  could be that the government might take the view that the                    
  private sector should take responsibility for funding it.                    
  The whole project, he speculated, could be shut down because                 
  everyone would be waiting for someone else to pay for it.                    
  Number 336                                                                   
  WILDLIFE AND PARKS, TANANA CHIEFS CONFERENCE, testified by                   
  teleconference from Anchorage in opposition to HB 182 and                    
  HB 183.  She stated that proponents of the corridor have                     
  argued that it would aid in economic development.  She                       
  disagreed with this, and said that subsistence is the                        
  primary economic system in most of the villages between                      
  Fairbanks and Nome.  The corridor would have a negative                      
  impact on the subsistence lifestyle by providing increased                   
  access to those areas.                                                       
  MS. WHEELER, regarding the argument that a railroad would                    
  limit access, disagreed and said this would still provide a                  
  vehicle by which more people would go in and compete for                     
  resources which are already heavily used.  She stressed that                 
  rural people are already fighting for their subsistence                      
  rights and access to resources.  The project, she said,                      
  would not bring significant economic gain to the region, and                 
  would not pay for itself.  Promises that big projects will                   
  result in local jobs, she cautioned, has proven not to be                    
  the case in the past.                                                        
  MS. WHEELER commented that maintenance and public safety                     
  costs would also strain state budgets, which she said are                    
  already insufficient to cover the existing roads in the                      
  state.  The people in villages along the corridor would be                   
  directly affected by the project, she explained, and Tanana                  
  Chiefs feel they would be hurt by the project.                               
  REPRESENTATIVE DAVID FINKELSTEIN asked Ms. Wheeler if she                    
  knew of any village in her area that supports the proposed                   
  corridor route.                                                              
  MS. WHEELER answered in the negative.                                        
  JULIE ROBERTS testified by teleconference from Tanana.  She                  
  addressed problems she saw with HB 182 and HB 183.  Tanana                   
  has long been questioned as to whether the village would                     
  support such a transportation corridor.  She referred to a                   
  mass murder in Manly Hot Springs in the early 1980's, and                    
  said that this was a reason Tanana had sought to keep access                 
  limited to the community.                                                    
  MS. ROBERTS noted that the subsistence lifestyle is                          
  important in the community, and said the people have not had                 
  the opportunity to voice their opinion on the development of                 
  a transportation corridor that would affect the way of life                  
  there.  She also questioned where the money would come from                  
  for such a project.                                                          
  Number 437                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE JAMES shared Ms. Roberts concerns, and hoped                  
  that all parties involved would have the opportunity to have                 
  input into decisions about the development of any corridor.                  
  Number 450                                                                   
  HERBIE EDWIN, VILLAGE OF TANANA COUNCIL MEMBER, objected to                  
  the corridor proposed in HB 182 and HB 183 because of its                    
  negative impact on the subsistence lifestyle.  Increased                     
  access would jeopardize the resources that the village                       
  relies upon, he said.  He stressed that the state could make                 
  better use of its funds by investing in education.  He also                  
  pointed out the need to respect the village's sovereign                      
  right to regulate projects that affect the village.                          
  Number 475                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE JAMES clarified that in delineation of the                    
  corridor, the village of Tanana would not necessarily be                     
  accessed, and would only access the village if the citizens                  
  of the community wanted it to.                                               
  MR. EDWIN replied that in some form, villages along the                      
  route would be affected by increased access, whether by a                    
  road or railway.                                                             
  CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS noted that Representatives Eldon Mulder                    
  and John Davies had joined the meeting.                                      
  Number 495                                                                   
  MR. STIMPFLE testified again from Nome.  He stated that the                  
  comments made by the previous witnesses needed to be heard.                  
  He hoped that the village corporations along the proposed                    
  right of way would be allowed to participate in defining the                 
  route.  He suggested that the concerns raised about access                   
  lend further merit to the idea that a railway would be a                     
  better option in terms of access and environmental impact,                   
  as well as being more sensitive to the ownership interests                   
  of people along the route.                                                   
  Number 506                                                                   
  MR. STIMPFLE suggested that some of the money allocated for                  
  studying the proposed corridor should be spent on efforts to                 
  gain input from those affected along the right-of-way.                       
  Number 518                                                                   
  testified in Juneau regarding concerns raised about the                      
  environmental impact a corridor might have on wetlands along                 
  the route.  He noted that at one time the Tanana and Minto                   
  flats were flooded with eight to ten feet of water.  A                       
  railroad there would not be viable at all, he testified.  He                 
  also described the Tanana and Minto flats as one of the                      
  largest swan nesting areas in the United States.  Language                   
  in HB 183, he said, allows the DOT to delineate a corridor                   
  that would eliminate any development in those flats.  He                     
  also mentioned that the village of Tanana has a road.                        
  Number 540                                                                   
  MR. EDWIN explained that the road in Tanana is just ten                      
  miles or so long and does not have access to anywhere.                       
  Number 548                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN explained his opposition to                       
  HB 182 and HB 183.  He remarked that the DOT already has a                   
  statewide master plan that allows planning of roads and                      
  corridors.  The only thing that can stop the development of                  
  a road at this time, he said, is a legislative act                           
  specifically forbidding that development.  He did not want                   
  to indicate that the legislature feels this is the direction                 
  the state should be going.  The state already has a $100                     
  million backlog of proposed road projects, and this should                   
  not be a priority, he said.                                                  
  Number 563                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE ELDON MULDER, CO-SPONSOR OF HB 182 and                        
  HB 183, called the current discussion a philosophical one,                   
  with the reality of being able to actually spend $7 million                  
  a remote one.  He said the bills give an indication of the                   
  direction the state wants to go with its infrastructure to                   
  gain access to its resources.  He stated that everyone has a                 
  vested interest in supporting the bills and encouraging                      
  their passage because each Alaskan has a vested interest in                  
  opening up the state to resource development.                                
  Number 585                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE JOHN DAVIES added his view that there are                     
  many other priorities for spending $7 million.  He                           
  specifically pointed out the number of roads in need of                      
  reconstruction, and said if there is an inadequate amount of                 
  money to maintain existing roads, it would not be wise to                    
  add infrastructure we cannot afford to maintain.                             
  Number 598                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE JAMES pointed out that Alaskans need to let                   
  the world know we are in business and she believed that HB
  182 and HB 183 does that.  She added that the House Finance                  
  committee would be the proper place for deciding whether the                 
  project is funded.  She urged committee members to keep in                   
  mind that the two bills should be looked at separately, with                 
  one as a statement as to what direction the state wants to                   
  take, and the other as a mechanism for funding that                          
  REPRESENTATIVE MULDER MOVED that the committee ADOPT the                     
  draft CSHB 183 (RES), as amended.  He asked unanimous                        
  CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS asked if there were any objections.                        
  Hearing none, the MOTION PASSED.                                             
  REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES asked about language on page 2, line                   
  2, requiring the DOT to classify, reclassify and reserve                     
  lands in the proposed corridor area.  He asked whether those                 
  activities were a function already performed by the                          
  Department of Natural Resources (DNR).                                       
  Number 621                                                                   
  MIKE MCKINNON, ACTING DIRECTOR OF PLANNING, DOT, explained                   
  that the language to classify and reclassify lands was                       
  simply for the purposes of reconnaissance engineering, and                   
  he did not believe it was a DNR-level action.                                
  Number 628                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN asked whether there was anything                  
  in HB 182 and HB 183 that directs the DNR to do anything it                  
  does not already have the power to do.                                       
  Number 632                                                                   
  MR. MCKINNON replied that the DOT has a mandate to do long-                  
  range planning.  House Bill 182 and HB 183 gives the                         
  department an indication that it is the legislature's                        
  priority to investigate this corridor in terms of                            
  reconnaissance engineering.  He added that some of those                     
  efforts provide a forum for the kinds of discussion and                      
  testimony raised at this meeting.                                            
  Number 643                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN asked if the legislature                          
  appropriated the money, would the DOT need a separate                        
  authorization to do the planning work.                                       
  MR. MCKINNON replied that the DOT often receives specific                    
  direction from the legislature to do corridor studies in                     
  certain regions of the state.  Bradford Canal and Juneau                     
  access were two examples he cited.  He noted that the DOT                    
  has the authority by statute to do planning studies, but                     
  also initiates those studies as a result of legislative                      
  Number 656                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES referred to the DOT's Cordova road                     
  situation, and asked if the department had received                          
  legislative direction to move forward with that.                             
  Number 665                                                                   
  MR. MCKINNON replied that the DOT moved forward on its own                   
  initiative on the Copper River Highway project, after                        
  approximately 15 years of initial studies and planning.                      
  Number 670                                                                   
  CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS asked if there were any further discussion                 
  or questions.                                                                
  Number 675                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE MULDER made a MOTION to MOVE CSHB 183 (RES)                   
  with individual recommendations.  He asked unanimous                         
  TAPE 93-45, SIDE B                                                           
  Number 000                                                                   
  CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS asked if there were any objections.                        
  Hearing none, the MOTION PASSED.                                             
  REPRESENTATIVE MULDER made a MOTION to MOVE HB 182 from                      
  committee with individual recommendations.  He asked                         
  unanimous consent.                                                           
  REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES OBJECTED.  His objection was based on                  
  his belief that the state should not spend this amount of                    
  money on this project at this time.                                          
  REPRESENTATIVE GREEN recognized the fiscal dilemma of the                    
  state, forcing legislators to take actions many felt was                     
  less than desirable.  The declining resource base, he said,                  
  should emphasize the need to expand access to resources in                   
  the interior region of the state.  Because it would take 15                  
  to 20 years or more before the corridor is developed, he                     
  suggested the legislature should act now.                                    
  Number 079                                                                   
  CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS asked for a roll call vote on the motion                   
  before the committee.  Voting YEA were Representatives                       
  Carney, Green, James, Mulder, and Williams.  Voting NO were                  
  Representatives Finkelstein and Davies.  The MOTION CARRIED.                 
  CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS noted that the meeting was now off                         
  teleconference.  He directed members' attention to the final                 
  draft of the committee's letter of explanation to accompany                  
  committee reports on the confirmation of five appointees to                  
  the Board of Game.  The committee took an at ease to allow                   
  members time to read the letter.                                             
  Number 101                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE PAT CARNEY referred to the last part of the                   
  last paragraph on page 2, and expressed concern with wording                 
  regarding geographical representation on the Board of Game.                  
  He thought it would be preferable to say "If Mr. Didrickson                  
  is confirmed, we are faced with a board which deviates from                  
  the traditional geographic representation."                                  
  CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS reminded members that the letter was in                    
  draft form and a motion was not necessary to make                            
  corrections and changes.                                                     
  Number 140                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE GREEN referred to the third to the last line,                 
  and commented that there was a typographical error that                      
  required the deletion of a second "and."                                     
  CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS asked members if they were satisfied with                  
  the basic content of the letter and whether they were ready                  
  to make a motion to transmit the letter on to the full                       
  legislature along with the committee reports.                                
  Number 164                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE made a MOTION to MOVE the letter                        
  stating the committee's concerns on the confirmations of                     
  appointees to the Board of Game, to accompany the names for                  
  a vote on the floor.                                                         
  CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS asked if there were any objections.                        
  Hearing none, the MOTION CARRIED.                                            

Document Name Date/Time Subjects