Legislature(1993 - 1994)
02/14/1994 08:15 AM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 306 - MUNICIPAL TAX CREDIT/HABITAT PROTECTION Number 147 CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS advised committee members there is a draft committee substitute in their folders, which was prepared by the sponsor of the bill. REPRESENTATIVE GARY DAVIS, PRIME SPONSOR, read his sponsor statement: "House Bill 306 will create a Municipal Tax Incentive Program (MTIP) to encourage private property owners to voluntarily protect important fishing habitat. Currently, under statute, it is not possible for local governments to provide a property tax credit. This legislation will grant local municipalities the ability to designate certain tax incentives for improving certain anadromous riparian habitats. This bill specifically addresses the Kenai River. The habitats must be determined by the State to warrant special management. In order to be eligible for a tax credit, the constructed improvement must aid in protecting the Kenai River or a tributary of the Kenai River from degradation due to public or private use; or restoring riparian fish habitat in the Kenai River or a tributary of the Kenai River that has been damaged by land use practices or can be damaged without preventative measures. "The eligible improvements will be in compliance with state and federal laws and certified by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) as meeting the established criteria. Let it be noted that the Kenai River Special Management Area (KRSMA) Advisory Board established under statute, supports HB 306. The KRSMA Advisory Board is appointed by the Commissioner of Natural Resources to develop and implement the Kenai River Special Management Area plan established in AS 41.21.502(a). House Bill 306 sets parameters that allow local governments flexibility in determining their needs and interests, while protecting riparian habitats. No local government is required to create a MTIP that is not wanted. MTIPs have proven effective in conserving riparian habitat elsewhere in the country. Once the MTIP proves effective on the Kenai River it may serve as a pilot project for other areas of the state." Number 201 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS said as indicated in the sponsor statement, the KRSMA Advisory Board is an important board in relating what goes on in the Kenai River. They made certain recommendations on HB 306 and their concerns have been incorporated into the committee substitute. REPRESENTATIVE PAT CARNEY asked why HB 306 was not written to permit any municipality in the state to allow the tax credit for other projects other than just the Kenai River. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS responded that as indicated, there would probably be a fiscal note should the bill cover statewide. Since the Kenai River is established under statute as a special management area, it is felt that it will be in the state's best interest to use HB 306 as a pilot project to determine the expected benefits. He said there was an attempt to think of other areas in the state which might be in the same situation where there are a lot of private property owners along a heavily fished river, and none could be identified. Number 241 REPRESENTATIVE CON BUNDE wondered if passing HB 306 and providing tools to the communities along the Kenai River to use, will the communities use the tools. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS felt the communities will. The Kenai River has been under the sharp eye of habitat agencies for a number of years. The habitat question along the river is something that both commercial and sport fish interests have agreed is in their best interests to conserve as much of the habitat as possible, in order to preserve and see continued returns of all salmon species. He said the city of Soldotna has established an overlay district, which requires Kenai Riverfront property owners to submit a request to the city before any development can be done on their property. Through that additional zoning requirement, there have been many innovative approaches to improvements along the riverbank seen. He felt HB 306 will see the same amount of interest at the borough level. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS pointed out that the program will also be used as an educational tool. For years, there has been an attempt to inform everyone who uses the riverbanks about the need to preserve habitat. Number 300 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN stated he has gone with a guide to look at some of the inexpensive repairs made along the river. He stressed there are large areas of the river which are eroding and some of these repairs not only stabilize the bank, but do provide habitat. He felt HB 306 is extremely timely and a great idea. REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON felt there are other streams which also have been impacted and hoped there will be language in the bill indicating it is a pilot project, so it can possibly be expanded to include other streams which ADF&G might identify as potential recipients. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS agreed and hoped that people keep an eye on the activity afforded under HB 360 so it can be expanded at some point. Number 345 REPRESENTATIVE CARNEY asked if they were talking about private property on the Kenai River which people are trespassing on. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS responded HB 306 addresses private property. REPRESENTATIVE CARNEY wondered if people with private property have a choice as to whether or not other people can use their property for access to the river. Number 370 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS replied it is their private land. There have been questions regarding an automatic 25-foot public easement along each side of the river, but he had not been able to find anything in statute which allows that. Over the years, in pursuing that question, he has been assured that is not the case. He stressed that private property owners do have control over their property. REPRESENTATIVE CARNEY said in many cases private property owners do not have a choice with regard to allowing other people to use their property for recreational purposes. He noted that he almost had to abandon a piece of property he owns because there is so much public traffic. He would have to spend all of his time policing it. He felt perhaps they should consider giving people a tax credit when their property is heavily utilized by the public. Number 418 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS remarked that in the Kenai River area, everyone is aware of how people will use whatever property they want to get to a fishing spot. What is happening is people are sending requests to ADF&G saying their land is being used as a public fishing ground and asking the state to buy their property. The state would like to buy much of that land, as sufficient public access is definitely a problem. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN stated a person can get on the Russian River from almost anywhere along it's three mile length. It is just about the opposite on the Kenai River. There are very few access points and the Kenai is a very fast moving river. He stressed that a wake really causes a problem and tying up a boat where there is no vegetation to take up the constant movement of water between the boat and the land, causes the land to erode rapidly. He felt if there can be more private people taking advantage of HB 306 and showing that it is possible, then the Park Service might do the same thing. REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE asked ADF&G to answer the easement question. He also wondered if usage will be increased with this bill, thereby increasing habitat degradation. Number 495 REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON stated it was not desirable to put too much more of the private land in public hands because the number of people on the river will increase. REPRESENTATIVE CARNEY wondered why the words "Kenai River" could not be eliminated from HB 306 and make it generally apply to any river in the state. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS believed with the Kenai River Special Management Area in place and with the amount of work the habitat division will be required to do, the department would be flooded with plans to review, etc. REPRESENTATIVE CARNEY stated there is a zero fiscal note for the Kenai River, which has many problems and he cannot imagine there will be additional costs with other streams. REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN felt there would be a higher fiscal note and pointed out that the fiscal note in the committee members' files was somewhat odd. It says it will cost a fair amount of money but they love the idea so much, they will do it. Number 580 GERON BRUCE, ALASKA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME, expressed support of HB 306. The Kenai River is being loved to death. There is a combination of extraordinary resources which attract much use, easy accessibility and a large population center nearby. He said the department has been watching the situation on the Kenai River with some concern for a period of time, and there are a number of programs which are being implemented to address the problems. He noted that HB 306 will provide an additional tool which will be valuable and help correct the situation, as well as prevent it from getting worse. MR. BRUCE told members to keep in mind, the department's studies indicate that 80 percent of the juvenile rearing salmon in the Kenai River inhabit the area within six feet of the bank. They utilize the area for cover and feed, and it is an area where the water velocity slows down, so the small juvenile fish are able to maintain their position. Therefore, it is an extremely productive area. In the entire river itself, 80 acres account for approximately 80 percent of the productivity for rearing fish. Number 600 REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON asked if ADF&G has the authority to charge a fee for private property plans review. MR. BRUCE said he did not believe they did. He stated the legislature is usually rigorous about restricting the ability of the department to charge and establish fees. REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON believed the legislature had given the Department of Commerce and Economic Development authority to charge whatever fees necessary to handle licenses, etc. and thought it might be something they will want to consider. REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE asked Mr. Bruce if he could address the question about public easements. MR. BRUCE responded that he could not answer the question and felt it was a land management question which the Department of Natural Resources or legal could answer. He said he will pursue an answer. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked Mr. Bruce to also check and see when there is a setback from the existing riverbank and the bank erodes, does the setback follow the bank. Number 647 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN stated he would be surprised if there is a public easement because if there is, a person could walk along the entire shore of the Kenai River. He said there is very little public land and it can be frustrating when trying to find access to the river. He asked what the general status is of the $3 million which was appropriated for habitat work along the Kenai River. MR. BRUCE explained that is the other major initiative which is beginning to go forward and he will provide an update to the committee at a later date. REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN questioned if that money and work can include acquisition. MR. BRUCE replied it can. REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE made a motion to MOVE committee substitute for HB 306 with two fiscal notes from committee with INDIVIDUAL RECOMMENDATIONS. CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS stated there is a need to adopt the committee substitute first. REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE WITHDREW his motion. REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN asked the sponsor to explain the differences between the committee substitute and the original bill. TAPE 94-14, SIDE B Number 000 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS replied, the differences resulted from the recommendations made by the KRSMA subcommittee. He said on page 1, line 11, it now reads "degradation of fish habitat due to public or private use;". Page 1, line 12, now reads "restoring riparian fish habitat along or in the Kenai River...". Page 2, lines 4 and 5, now read "If the credit is granted for more than one year and the land or taxable interest in the land is conveyed, the portion of the credit remaining is extinguished." Page 2, line 13, now reads "located more than 150 feet from the mean high tide line...". Page 2, lines 25 and 26 now read "the criteria established under this subsection. The department may require submission of plans for approval before construction as a condition of certification." REPRESENTATIVE CARNEY asked if someone could define fish habitat, as he thought fish habitat was in the water itself rather than on the shore. Number 025 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS responded that HB 306 allows for review and credit for improvements along or in the Kenai River and back up to 150 feet. REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON made a motion to ADOPT the committee substitute for HB 306. CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS asked if there were objections. Hearing none, CSHB 306(RES) was ADOPTED. REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON made a motion to MOVE CSHB 306(RES) with two zero fiscal notes out of committee with INDIVIDUAL RECOMMENDATIONS. CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS asked if there were objections. Hearing none, the MOTION PASSED. ANNOUNCEMENTS CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS announced the committee will meet February 15 at 3:00 p.m. with officials from the Minerals Management Service to discuss issues concerning the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. He also announced the committee will meet February 16 at 8:15 a.m. to consider SB 77 and SJR 13. ADJOURNMENT There being no further business to come before the House Resources Committee, Chairman Williams adjourned the meeting at 9:10 a.m.