Legislature(1993 - 1994)

03/09/1993 05:00 PM House TRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
  TAPE 93-9, SIDE A                                                            
  Number 015                                                                   
  CHAIR FOSTER called the meeting to order at 5:10 p.m.  Chair                 
  Foster requested Representative Brice to brief the committee                 
  on the resolution.                                                           
  HJR 28:  SUPPORT KANTISHNA AREA TOURISM DEVELOP'T                            
  Number 013                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE TOM BRICE, PRIME SPONSOR OF HJR 28, stated                    
  that establishing rail access and a visitor area in                          
  Kantishna would help solve the problems of overcrowding and                  
  limited access that Denali National Park is now                              
  experiencing.  A rail corridor would provide for controlled                  
  public access, would not add to problems such as vandalism                   
  and littering that are associated with road access, and                      
  provide for a basically environmentally sound option for                     
  public access.  Rail access would increase visitor capacity                  
  and create a new way for visitors to experience the park.                    
  This would support the private sector's efforts in adding to                 
  Alaska's economy.  This could be accomplished by                             
  establishing a rail utility corridor that could be leased                    
  from the state by the private sector as well as provide for                  
  a visitor activity area in Kantishna.                                        
  Number 059                                                                   
  CHAIR FOSTER announced there were people standing by via                     
  teleconference who wished to testify.                                        
  Number 065                                                                   
  JOSEPH FIELDS, DIRECTOR, KANTISHNA GROUP, INC., began his                    
  testimony from Fairbanks by referring to last session's                      
  House and Senate versions of HJR 28.  He stated that over                    
  the past year the subject of access into the park has                        
  continued to be the subject of much debate.  He said they                    
  have been working with the state Department of Natural                       
  Resources (DNR) and are negotiating a recognizance permit                    
  for the first thirty miles of alignment.  The railroad they                  
  are proposing would be a public carrier that would meet the                  
  criteria and would provide year around access that the                       
  existing road does not.  The project is proposed to be built                 
  from private funds.  The Denali Borough Assembly and mayor                   
  have passed a resolution supporting the creation of a                        
  Railroad/Utility Corridor.                                                   
  MR. FIELDS further stated that the Kantishna Railroad is an                  
  environmentally sound and responsible method for expanding                   
  the tourism infrastructure in Alaska.  It doesn't conflict                   
  with existing tour operators in his view, and as an economic                 
  development project it meets the criteria that the new                       
  president has set out in sustaining economic growth, and it                  
  is not a resource extractive project.  Tourism is one of the                 
  largest producers of foreign exchange, perhaps affecting the                 
  national balance of trade more directly than any other form                  
  of enterprise.  He felt that the park should be accessed by                  
  disabled people and this transportation mode would provide                   
  for that.                                                                    
  Number 225                                                                   
  GINNY WOOD began her testimony from Fairbanks by stating her                 
  concerns of HJR 28 and the possibility of spoiling resources                 
  by crowding too many people into the park.  She mentioned                    
  the businesses that currently provide tours in the park                      
  already, and she felt that the tourism trade was being                       
  adequately provided.  She voiced her concern for the                         
  businesses that were going to be impacted by HJR 28.                         
  Number 352                                                                   
  LARRY IRVING, PRESIDENT, KANTISHNA GROUP, INC., testified                    
  from Fairbanks that he was aware of the need to expand                       
  services in the area of the Denali National Park and stated                  
  they had turned away half a million visitors a year who                      
  indicated they would spend time and dollars if there were                    
  facilities and transportation into the park.  The tourism                    
  marketing efforts have maximized capacity in the summer                      
  season, he said.  He felt it would provide significant                       
  economic development opportunity.                                            
  Number 362                                                                   
  TERI CANERY, testifying from Fairbanks, spoke against HJR
  28, however, her testimony referred entirely to a "road"                     
  system instead of the proposed "railroad" system included in                 
  HJR 28.  She felt the addition would change the character of                 
  the park.                                                                    
  Number 574                                                                   
  COMMERCE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, spoke on behalf of the                    
  project.  He mentioned that an increase of people on the                     
  highway made it harder for people to get into the park.                      
  Number 635                                                                   
  FACILITIES, spoke in favor of the Kantishna project.  He                     
  felt it would relieve the bottleneck that exists around the                  
  existing entrance to the park which has resulted in                          
  escalating land use, traffic, and tourism capacity problems.                 
  He felt improved access would allow tourism industry                         
  TAPE 93-9, SIDE B                                                            
  Number 035                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE MACKIE moved HJR 28 from committee with                       
  individual recommendations.                                                  
  Number 056                                                                   
  CHAIR FOSTER ADJOURNED the meeting at 6:00 p.m.                              

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