Legislature(2001 - 2002)

05/02/2001 01:12 PM House RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SJR 30-HIGHWAY RIGHTS-OF-WAY IN FEDERAL AREAS                                                                                 
CO-CHAIR SCALZI announced that the only order of business before                                                                
the committee would be SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 30, Urging                                                                   
the  United  States Forest  Service  to  acknowledge all  of  the                                                               
rights of the state to  rights-of-way to state highways that pass                                                               
through federal land.                                                                                                           
[There  was an  unnecessary motion  to  place SJR  30 before  the                                                               
committee as the working document.]                                                                                             
Number 0075                                                                                                                     
DON  KUBLEY (PH),  Yakutat Lodge;  Alaska Airports  Incorporated,                                                               
explained that there is one road  leading out of Yakutat into the                                                               
"hinterlands," which is the Alsac-Dangerous  River Highway.  That                                                               
highway  was  built and  has  been  maintained  by the  State  of                                                               
Alaska.   In the 1960s and  1970s the title and  right-of-way was                                                               
conveyed to the State of  Alaska formally.  Last December several                                                               
of the few  folks, outfitters, that were allowed to  use the road                                                               
on  a commercial  basis received  a letter  from the  U.S. Forest                                                               
Service saying  that since this  road passes through  the Tongass                                                               
National Forest, the [Forest Service]  owns it.  Furthermore, the                                                               
letter said  that no  commercial business would  be done  on this                                                               
highway unless  they issued permits.   Moreover, the  letter said                                                               
no permits  would be issued.   Therefore, there was  much concern                                                               
in Yakutat, especially from the  sports fishermen and the guides.                                                               
In particular, this  was of concern for the  Yakutat Lodge, which                                                               
has  been in  business for  over 20  years.   [The owner]  of the                                                               
Yakutat Lodge, former  Senator Fanning, knew better  and thus the                                                               
committee has  SJR 30  before it.   Mr. Kubley  said, "This  is a                                                               
very black and white state's rights issue.   We own the road.  We                                                               
own the access to the easement on either side of it."                                                                           
MR.  KUBLEY posed  a  situation in  which a  person  wants to  go                                                               
fishing on the Situk River.  If  an outfitter helps put a boat on                                                               
a trailer  or drives it  to the river, puts  it in the  river, or                                                               
helps take  the boat out  of the river,  then it is  considered a                                                               
guided  trip  and  thus  a  permit from  the  Forest  Service  is                                                               
required.   "Well, that's absolutely wrong,"  charged Mr. Kubley.                                                               
He pointed  out that  this river  is a  navigable river  that was                                                               
conveyed to the  state during statehood and yet  there are Forest                                                               
Service agents on the river stopping  boats on their way down and                                                               
questioning them  regarding from whom their  equipment was rented                                                               
and from  whom they received  help with their boats.   Therefore,                                                               
"we  would like  for the  State of  Alaska to  make it  perfectly                                                               
clear that this is in  fact state domain; that their jurisdiction                                                               
is null and void," he requested.                                                                                                
MR. KUBLEY emphasized that there  is an issue bigger than Yakutat                                                               
and that is:                                                                                                                    
     If you go by the letter  that was sent to the people of                                                                    
     Yakutat in December saying that  because this road goes                                                                    
     through the  Tongass National Forest  we own it  - even                                                                    
     though  we  didn't  build  it,  even  though  we  don't                                                                    
     maintain it,  even though we  don't have title to  it -                                                                    
     then every road ... in  the Tongass National Forest ...                                                                    
     [can fall under the whim  of] some ranger ... [who] can                                                                    
     use  that  as  a  precedent  and  say  there'll  be  no                                                                    
     commercial traffic  on this road.   ... I think  it's a                                                                    
     real dangerous  situation to allow  them to  think that                                                                    
     ... that's an acceptable situation.   I think this is a                                                                    
     way  of showing  them that  it's  not and  it's a  good                                                                    
     start in resolving the situation.                                                                                          
Number 0523                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA referred to page  2, line 8, and asked if                                                               
the  state has  absolute sole  authority on  public access.   She                                                               
recalled that in some instances there are some shared rights.                                                                   
MR.  KUBLEY  answered,  "That  would  have  to  be  a  negotiated                                                               
situation.   In  this case,  this is  ... a  state highway,  it's                                                               
state access, it's a state river."                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA  pointed out that the  language refers to                                                               
"all state highways  passing through Forest Service  lands."  She                                                               
reiterated her remembrance that it wasn't all of them.                                                                          
MR. KUBLEY said that he wasn't aware of any such situation.                                                                     
Number 0629                                                                                                                     
DICK BISHOP, Alaska Outdoor Council,  testified in support of SJR
30.   Mr. Bishop remarked  that SJR  30 expresses a  concern that                                                               
isn't unique.   He supposed  that "we" could sympathize  with the                                                               
federal  agencies  trying  to properly  implement  the  terms  of                                                               
federal rules, and in particular,  ANILCA (Alaska Native Interest                                                               
Land  Claim Act),  which  is so  complex.   Perhaps,  this is  an                                                               
honest mistake based  on a lack of knowledge.   However, it is an                                                               
unacceptable  situation that  should be  addressed.   He remarked                                                               
that such  situations are epidemic  with the difficulties  of the                                                               
implementation of federal rules.                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE FATE  inquired as to  other examples in  which Mr.                                                               
Bishop felt that the federal government overstepped its bounds.                                                                 
MR. BISHOP recalled  a situation from two years ago  in which the                                                               
National  Park   Service  declared   that  it   was  implementing                                                               
emergency regulations  to prohibit  the use  of snow  machines in                                                               
the old  Denali National  Park.   Clearly, that  was inconsistent                                                               
with the terms of ANILCA.   Furthermore, it was inconsistent with                                                               
the authority they  have to regulate; that is  they didn't follow                                                               
the rules of their own laws.   This resulted in a lawsuit brought                                                               
by  the Alaska  State  Snowmobile Association  and the  [National                                                               
Park Service] lost.   Therefore, [the National  Park Service] had                                                               
to   propose  regulations   in  the   proper  manner   and  those                                                               
regulations were established.   However, they are  again in court                                                               
because  it isn't  clear that  those  regulations are  consistent                                                               
with the intent of ANILCA.                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE FATE noted  that there has been  a recent incident                                                               
on  the  Yukon   River  that  would  seem   to  corroborate  such                                                               
Number 0945                                                                                                                     
MR.  KUBLEY  reiterated  that  if the  situation  in  Yakutat  is                                                               
allowed, then  [the federal government]  could, by  precedent, do                                                               
the same thing with every  road in Southeast Alaska because those                                                               
are all in the Tongass National  Forest.  He concluded by saying,                                                               
"This is extremely serious."                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR SCALZI announced that public testimony was closed.                                                                     
Number 1000                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN  referred to  page 2,  line 4,  after "door"                                                               
and  asked if  there  would be  any merit  to  deleting "to"  and                                                               
inserting "for it and".   Representative Green offered that as an                                                               
amendment.  There being no objection, the amendment was adopted.                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA noted for the  record that there are some                                                               
cooperative  agreements in  place  that the  state  has with  the                                                               
Forest  Service.   She said,  "They don't  necessarily relinquish                                                               
the state's authorities."                                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE  KERTTULA then  directed  attention  to the  first                                                               
full paragraph on page 3 of  the letter from the Senate President                                                               
and the Speaker of the House  dated April 28, 2001.  [This letter                                                               
is included in the committee packet.]  She commented:                                                                           
     I think that ... when we're in these very complicated                                                                      
     issues, I think that it would be a good thing for all                                                                      
     us to remember  that we have issues  of sovereignty, of                                                                    
     tribal  rights, and  other issues  that  ... are  truly                                                                    
     important  to many  of us,  all Alaskans.   When  we're                                                                    
     dealing with  these kinds  of contentious  issues, it's                                                                    
     best ...  to try to  think of  us all when  we're going                                                                    
She also expressed some concern about the tone of the                                                                           
resolution, although she said that she wouldn't object to it.                                                                   
Number 1249                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE moved  to report SJR 30 as  amended out of                                                               
committee  with individual  recommendations and  the accompanying                                                               
zero fiscal note.  There being  no objection, HCS SJR 30(RES) was                                                               
reported from the House Resources Standing Committee.                                                                           

Document Name Date/Time Subjects