Legislature(1995 - 1996)

02/01/1995 08:07 AM RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 HRES - 02/01/95                                                               
 HB 58 - CHICKALOON FLATS CRITICAL HABITAT AREA                              
 REPRESENTATIVE CON BUNDE, PRIME SPONSOR, stated HB 58 was requested           
 by businessmen from Anchorage who are duck hunters.  He said while            
 these people are business, development, and resource oriented                 
 people, they are also duck oriented.  He explained HB 58                      
 establishes on the Kenai Peninsula, across from Anchorage, a                  
 critical habitat area.  On a map, Representative Bunde showed that            
 the area encompasses the mud flats below mean high water, follows             
 the meander of the bay, and in a straight line connects the two               
 ends of the meander.                                                          
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE stated Chickaloon Flats is on the northeast              
 side of the Kenai Peninsula, on the Turnagain Arm facing the                  
 Anchorage Coastal Refuge and Potter Flats.  The area has a local              
 nesting population of ducks and geese.  He said the most important            
 use of this area is as a feeding and resting area for migrating               
 ducks, geese, and shore birds.  Up to 25,000 birds a day use the              
 mud flats and tidal marsh.  He noted this area is often used when             
 Portage Pass is closed due to bad weather.  The waterfowl that                
 normally transit the pass need a place to rest and feed.  He                  
 stressed Chickaloon Flats is the principal place the waterfowl use            
 on Turnagain Arm.                                                             
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE explained the purpose of HB 58 is to assure              
 adequate habitat for waterfowl rather than create a stumbling block           
 for future development of resources.  He noted there are currently            
 no valid oil and gas leases in the proposed critical habitat area             
 that would be disrupted by the formation of a critical habitat                
 area.  He added there is nothing in HB 58 which would preclude                
 future exploration of this area.  He urged committee members to               
 pass HB 58 out of committee.                                                  
 Number 045                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE PETE KOTT agreed with the intent of the bill.  He              
 asked Representative Bunde to again review the geographical                   
 longitude description.                                                        
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE responded the area goes east to west on the              
 mean high water line (curved line) and then comes straight back in            
 a straight line.  Therefore, it is a half moon shape.                         
 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT felt lines 1-3, page 2 are inconsistent with              
 other habitat areas already created.  He wondered why the statement           
 "The department shall permit the following public uses to continue            
 without further approval by the department unless the department              
 determines that the use is not compatible with the purposes..." was           
 included in HB 58.                                                            
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE replied the word permit is defined as allow.             
 For example, if there is some huge industrial activity in the area            
 at the peak of migration, that would be incompatible.  If it was              
 done three months later when everything is frozen up, it would be             
 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT reiterated that the words "without further                
 approval by the department" is not contained in any of the other              
 critical habitat areas which have been promulgated in statute.  He            
 felt the words enumerate concerns for allowances and thought it               
 would be a negative inference in the sense that anything which is             
 not enumerated would then have to be approved by the department.              
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said the purposes outlined in lines 5-12,                
 page 2, would be allowed without further approval.  Department                
 approval would be required for anything beyond those purposes                 
 Number 091                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE JOHN DAVIES thought lines 10-12, page 2, generalize            
 the concept and gives the department a certain amount of                      
 flexibility to address Representative Kott's concerns.                        
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said the term "other related uses" falls in              
 the realm of outdoor recreation.                                              
 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT said he understands the intent of lines 10-12,            
 page 2.  He felt perhaps in line 2, page 2, the words "without                
 further approval by the department" should be eliminated because              
 that verbiage is not consistent with other statutory habitat areas            
 which have been created.  He assumed the Alaska Department of Fish            
 and Game (ADF&G) will restrict any uses, either public or oil and             
 gas, which are not compatible with the purpose to protect and                 
 preserve habitat areas especially crucial to the perpetuation of              
 fish and wildlife.  However, he thought the words left it open in             
 regard to the discretion of the department.  The department might             
 place restrictions which in their wisdom do not fall within the               
 clause contained in lines 10-12, page 2.                                      
 GERON BRUCE, REPRESENTATIVE, ADF&G, said the recreational                     
 activities listed in HB 58 have been ongoing and the sponsor wants            
 them to continue.  He stressed these activities are normally                  
 allowed in legislatively specially designated areas because they do           
 not pose a threat to fish and wildlife habitat; the protection of             
 which is the critical component in designating the areas.  He                 
 agreed the activities specified in HB 58 are more detailed than               
 other plans but he felt they are consistent with the way the other            
 areas are managed.  Recreational uses of the critical habitat                 
 areas, game sanctuaries, etc. are allowed as long as they do not              
 conflict with the protection of the habitat involved.                         
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE reiterated that the activities listed are                
 traditional activities and he did not want some future change of              
 administration to decide that if someone wants to hunt in the area,           
 they would have to get a permit.  He stressed he did not want these           
 traditional activities to be restricted in the future.                        
 Number 153                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES made a MOTION to AMEND HB 58 eliminating the            
 word "permit" in line 1, page 2, and substituting the word "allow"            
 and in line 2, page 2, eliminating the phrase "without further                
 approval by the department".                                                  
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE responded that amendment is fine.                        
 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT thought the amendment would be an improvement.            
 He noted, however, the word "permit" has been used in every other             
 statutory creation of a habitat area.  He reiterated that the                 
 phrase "without further approval by the department" concerned him             
 because it offers a negative inference that if another type of                
 activity not listed would need authorization or approval by the               
 department.  An example is three wheeling.  He wondered if three              
 wheeling falls within the category as outlined in lines 10-12,                
 page 2.                                                                       
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said at the mouth of the Susitna River there             
 is a critical habitat area and the department has specifically                
 limited the use of all-terrain vehicles to commercial fishermen               
 during the fishing season and to within a quarter of a mile of salt           
 MR. BRUCE stated ADF&G supports HB 58.  He noted the Department of            
 Labor estimates that Alaska's population will grow by 40 percent              
 over the next 15 years and a significant portion of that growth               
 will occur in Anchorage.  The department believes it is important             
 to establish areas for people to enjoy recreational activities                
 related to Alaska's fish and wildlife.  The department also feels             
 it is important to look toward the future and potential growth, so            
 these opportunities will be there for future Alaskans.                        
 Number 220                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE SCOTT OGAN asked what the difference is between                
 establishing a critical habitat area and leaving an area as is.               
 MR. BRUCE responded a critical habitat designation allows the                 
 department to manage the area with the primary purpose of                     
 protecting habitat critical to fish and wildlife populations                  
 inhabiting that area.  He added there is a need to ensure that                
 someone coming into the area, wanting to engage in some type of               
 activity does not damage that habitat and degrade it.  He noted a             
 critical habitat designation is the most mild form of land use                
 designation and simply elevates fish and wildlife habitat in                  
 consideration, but does not preclude other uses.                              
 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN questioned if the Chickaloon Flats area had               
 been explored for oil and gas.                                                
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE replied the Kenai has been thoroughly examined           
 on a seismic basis.  There are no oil or gas leases presently and             
 no leases are contemplated.  He also had a discussion with the                
 Alaska Miners and was assured there is no offshore mining potential           
 in the area.                                                                  
 Number 258                                                                    
 teleconference and said the area being discussed is not a big area,           
 but is an area which people have enjoyed for numerous years.  He              
 stressed the most important point is that the area is critical to             
 waterfowl under certain kinds of circumstances.  He explained when            
 the need is there, the birds have the opportunity to wait in the              
 area until Portage Pass opens up.  Otherwise, a large number of               
 birds may be lost.  He added it is ridiculous to think that someone           
 might put a golf course on the mud flats.  He stated it is                    
 important to think about the waterfowl and other birds who stage              
 there.  He urged support of HB 58.                                            
 Number 280                                                                    
 teleconference.  He said the Chickaloon Flats area encompasses                
 about 22,000 acres and is important for migrating ducks, geese and            
 thousands of shore birds.  He noted the establishment of the                  
 critical habitat area will be compatible with the Kenai National              
 Wildlife Refuge.  He expressed support for the amendment proposed.            
 He stressed HB 58 is an example of legislation which provides                 
 careful oversight of the land without any costs involved and no               
 extra employees are needed.                                                   
 MR. HENDRICKSON stated there is also a significant red salmon run             
 going up the Chickaloon River.  Therefore, the oversight and                  
 protection is important to commercial and sport fishers.  He                  
 acknowledged the designation is not to preclude oil and gas                   
 exploration and production which he pointed out is done in the                
 Redoubt Bay Critical Habitat Area, Susitna Flats, etc.  He felt               
 HB 58 is consistent with the kind of protection already in place.             
 He told committee members the state of Alaska has established,                
 through its legislature, the finest coastal waterfowl habitat and             
 refuge system in the world.  He noted there is a thriving duck                
 population which does nest in the area being discussed.                       
 CO-CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS noted for the record that Representative                 
 BARNES had joined the committee at 8:25 a.m.                                  
 Number 347                                                                    
 ROD ARNOT, PRESIDENT, ALASKA OUTDOOR COUNCIL, testified via                   
 teleconference and expressed support for HB 58.  He stressed that             
 as the Anchorage urban population continues to grow, these tidal              
 flats become even more critical.  The area is particularly                    
 important for times when the weather blocks Portage Pass and                  
 waterfowl need an area to congregate and rest before going through            
 the Pass.  He also expressed support for the amendment.                       
 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT noted the use of campfires has been allowed in            
 the area.  If at some point, it is determined that the use of                 
 campfires is no longer compatible with the purpose of protecting              
 the habitat, he asked what actions would be taken by the department           
 to notice the public.                                                         
 MR. BRUCE replied it could be noticed in a number of ways.  He said           
 in the beginning, the department would post signs in the area                 
 saying campfires are allowed only in certain places or not allowed,           
 etc.  He stated it could also be included in the management plan              
 which will be developed for the habitat area and would be available           
 for people to pick up at local ADF&G offices before going to the              
 REPRESENTATIVE RAMONA BARNES asked what type of track record the              
 department has in critical habitat areas in not allowing other uses           
 to continue when they are part of the legislation.                            
 MR. BRUCE felt he could not answer the question on the track record           
 for all the refuges and critical habitat areas since they were                
 established.  He thought the general public in Alaska supports the            
 program and enjoys the use of the areas and the wildlife and                  
 habitat it protects.                                                          
 REPRESENTATIVE BARNES said she does not know many Alaskans who                
 support critical habitat areas or the locking up of the land.                 
 Number 428                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN clarified the amendment and stated lines                  
 1 & 2, page 2, will read "The department shall allow the following            
 public uses to continue unless the department..."                             
 CO-CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS asked for a roll call vote on the amendment.             
 Voting in favor of the motion were Representatives Austerman, Ogan,           
 Davies, Kott, Barnes and Williams.  The MOTION PASSED 6-0.                    
 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT made a MOTION to MOVE CSHB 58(RES) out of                 
 committee with accompanying zero fiscal notes WITH INDIVIDUAL                 
 REPRESENTATIVE BARNES said she would not object to moving                     
 CSHB 58(RES) out of committee but added she will not support                  
 passage of the bill.                                                          
 CO-CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS asked for a roll call vote.  Voting in favor             
 of the motion were Representatives Kott, Ogan, Barnes, Davies,                
 Austerman and Williams.  The MOTION PASSED 6-0.                               
 CO-CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS recessed the meeting until 1:00 p.m.                     
 TAPE 95-7, SIDE B                                                             
 Number 000                                                                    
 CO-CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS called the meeting back to order at 1:10 p.m.            
 Members present at the call to order were Representatives Williams,           
 Ogan, Austerman, Barnes, Davies, Kott and Nicholia.  Members absent           
 were Representatives Green and MacLean.  He stated there was a                
 quorum present.                                                               

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