Legislature(2017 - 2018)BARNES 124
01/27/2017 01:00 PM RESOURCES
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HJR 6-SUPPORT ROAD: KING COVE & COLD BAY 1:17:43 PM CO-CHAIR JOSEPHSON announced that the first order of business would be HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 6, Expressing the Alaska State Legislature's support and appreciation for legislation introduced by the state's congressional delegation that would allow for the construction of a single-lane gravel road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, connecting the community of King Cove with the Cold Bay Airport; and urging the United States Congress to pass the legislation. 1:19:08 PM REPRESENTATIVE BRYCE EDGMON, Alaska State Legislature, speaking as the sponsor, introduced HJR 6. Representative Edgmon informed the committee that the issue addressed by HJR 6 is not unfamiliar to most; in fact, connecting King Cove and Cold Bay through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge ("refuge") has been discussed for 30 years, and [inaction] has exacted a human toll from residents of King Cove in need of medical attention who need to reach the airport in Cold Bay. The Cold Bay Airport was built by the military and consists of one of the bigger and more accessible runways and a generous cross [landing strip]. In 2010, a solution was in place under the federal Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 ("lands Act of 2009") [passed in the 111th U.S. Congress], and supported by the Alaska State Legislature which in 2010, unanimously passed enabling legislation related to a land exchange that would create a corridor through the refuge and allow the construction of a road. To the disappointment of residents of King Cove and many others, in 2015, it was found that completion of the road was not in the public's interest. Representative Edgmon expressed his support of responsible resource development and his respect for those who are concerned with the sensitivity of the affected lagoon and habitat. However, he opined the footprint of a single lane gravel road is highly prescriptive and very doable, so he introduced the resolution in support of proposed congressional legislation to successfully progress the issue. Representative Edgmon asked for the committee's support. 1:23:34 PM REPRESENTATIVE TALERICO stated his belief that the foregoing is a life and safety issue for residents of the state. REPRESENTATIVE EDGMON agreed and directed attention to supporting materials from the National Transportation Safety Board found in the committee packet. He described his personal experience flying into King Cove during perilous conditions that are present "about a third of the year." REPRESENTATIVE DRUMMOND asked whether the legislation proposed by the Alaska congressional delegation includes a land exchange. REPRESENTATIVE EDGMON explained that legislation passed by the Alaska State Legislature in 2010 anticipated an exchange of 206 acres for "a package" of about 43,000 acres of state and village corporation inholdings. He was unaware of the parameters of the legislation proposed by U.S Senator Lisa Murkowski or U.S. Congressman Don Young. 1:26:13 PM TIM CLARK, staff, Representative Bryce Edgmon, Alaska State Legislature, said the legislation introduced in Congress alludes to the exchange of federal and non-federal land as contained in the lands Act of 2009. He expressed his understanding that the same two parcels of state land of approximately 43,000 acres will be exchanged for a 206-acre road corridor through about 12 miles of the refuge. REPRESENTATIVE DRUMMOND surmised that the authority [for the exchange] is already in place by the lands Act of 2009. MR. CLARK responded that although the lands Act of 2009 exists, the authority granted for the land exchange and the construction of the road has expired; the current proposed federal legislation utilizes the details from the 2009 agreement on the land exchange and the parameters of the road. REPRESENTATIVE EDGMON added that the road is about 30 miles long, of which 18 miles are in place; HJR 6 targets the remaining route that goes through the "more sensitive habitat area" of the refuge. REPRESENTATIVE BIRCH suggested there may be an advantage to revisiting the proportions of the land exchange, and said, "It's certainly not an acre for an acre ... it's an acre for a whole lot of acres." MR. CLARK first qualified his response to Representative Drummond by adding that the new exchange proposed in Congress "probably will be less, in balance, so to speak, than the previous exchange." REPRESENTATIVE BIRCH surmised the land exchange is "headed towards the value for value ...." CO-CHAIR TARR questioned whether the community's perspective is that the road will not impact economic activity in the area. REPRESENTATIVE EDGMON agreed and added that although the community of Cold Bay has had mixed feelings about the road, Cold Bay and King Cove residents now strongly support the road because of enhanced access that would contribute to economic activity. 1:32:18 PM [The committee treated the hearing of HJR 6 as open for public testimony.] 1:32:46 PM STANLEY MACK, mayor, Aleutians East Borough, Anchorage Office, informed the committee he is an Aleut born in King Cove, which is a community of mostly indigenous Aleut people whose ancestors have lived there for thousands of years. Representative Edgmon and others have been involved in this matter for over a decade and Mayor Mack urged for the passage of HJR 6. He spoke of 30 years of efforts to obtain authorization from the federal government to construct the road, and the hard work of the Alaska congressional delegation. Mayor Mack commended Senator Lisa Murkowski for her support that will continue until King Cove has transportation to the Cold Bay Airport for emergency medical purposes and access to the outside world. Finally, the approval of federal legislation is near to address the difficult weather and geographical issues that impact residents' daily lives, and sometimes prevent access to the Cold Bay Airport. Regularly, high winds prevent safe and dependable air access, and King Cove lives have been lost or compromised. The land exchange will lead to the construction of a one-lane gravel road and improve the quality of life. Mayor Mack expressed his appreciation for the work of the current legislature - and that of Governor Walker's administration - to resolve the transportation access problem. CO-CHAIR TARR asked about the financing of the road, and whether the hovercraft [provided by a Congressional appropriation and operational from 2007 to 2010] will be utilized. MAYOR MACK said financing works through the state. The Aleutians East Borough had the operation of the hovercraft, which proved unreliable and unaffordable. He continued, "We have taken that one out, completely out of the picture, and hopefully we could sell it and, and recapture the money for some, [and] we [can] help finance the access project." 1:38:42 PM LOIS EPSTEIN, spokesperson, The Wilderness Society, informed the committee she is a licensed Alaska engineer and former director of the non-profit Alaska Transportation Priorities Project. Currently, she represents The Wilderness Society which has testified before Congress on this issue. The Wilderness Society opposes HJR 6 for numerous reasons, including the importance of the Izembek Wildlife Refuge, the precedent regarding national wildlife refuges, the adverse impact to subsistence, and the high cost to the state for capital, operating, and maintenance costs. The Wilderness Society will provide the committee further detailed information, and she urged the committee not to support HJR 6. CO-CHAIR JOSEPHSON asked whether congressional legislation is needed, or if the next U.S. Secretary of the Interior could authorize [the land exchange and road corridor]. MS. EPSTEIN understood an analytical process would need to be redone by the U.S. Department of the Interior. In further response to Co-Chair Josephson, she said she did not know whether further legislation was required. REPRESENTATIVE BIRCH inquired as to what evidence on which The Wilderness Society based its testimony that the bill would contradict or complicate the subsistence values of the community. MS. EPSTEIN responded that the Association of Village Council Presidents opposes the "Izembek road ... through the refuge" and she urged the committee to consult with members of that organization regarding impacts to subsistence. CO-CHAIR JOSEPHSON questioned whether the committee substitute (CS) for HJR 6 makes substantial changes to the original bill. MR. CLARK responded that the CS and explanation of changes was previously provided to the co-chairs' staff. In further response to Co-Chair Josephson, he said the CS corrects a drafting error of bill numbers referring to legislation introduced by Senator Lisa Murkowski and Congressman Young as follows: Page 3, line 2, S. 3204 and H.R. 5777 were deleted and replaced with S. 101 and H.R. 218; Page 3, line 6, S. 3240 was deleted and replaced with S. 101; Page 3, line 7, H.R. 5777 was deleted and replaced with H.R. 218 1:44:29 PM CO-CHAIR TARR moved to adopt the CS for HJR 6, Version 30- LS0329\D, Bullard, 1/18/17, as the working document. 1:44:44 PM CO-CHAIR JOSEPHSON objected for discussion purposes. REPRESENTATIVE BIRCH expressed his support for the bill. 1:45:28 PM CO-CHAIR JOSEPHSON removed his objection. There being no further objection, Version D was before the committee. [The committee treated public testimony on HJR 6 as closed.] 1:45:36 PM CO-CHAIR TARR moved to report [the CS for HJR 6, Version 30- LS0329\D, Bullard, 1/18/17], out of committee with individual recommendations [and a zero fiscal note]. There being no objection, CSHJR 6(RES) was reported out of the House Resources Standing Committee. [Later in the meeting, Co-Chair Tarr clarified that her motion was to move CS for HJR 6.] CO-CHAIR JOSEPHSON stated there were no fiscal notes attached to the bill. [Later in the meeting, Co-Chair Josephson clarified that there was a zero fiscal note attached to Version D of the bill.]