Legislature(1997 - 1998)
02/03/1997 01:32 PM CRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 64 SHUYAK ISLAND STATE PARK CHAIRMAN MACKIE called the Senate Community & Regional Affairs Committee meeting to order at 1:32 p.m. and noted all members were present. He then brought SB 64 before the committee and turned the gavel over to Vice Chairman Wilken. CHAIRMAN MACKIE , as prime sponsor of SB 64, read the following sponsor statement into the record: "I introduced SB 64 at the request of Mayor Jerome Selby and the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly. It presents one of the final actions of a long and complex effort by state and federal authorities and locally affected municipalities to compensate for the effects of the Valdez oil spill. The bill adds specific land and water areas to the Shuyak State Park. Shuyak Island was the first part of the borough that was heavily impacted by the westward streaming oil patches and tar balls from the 1989 accident. "The two large land owners on Shuyak Island are the state and the Kodiak Island Borough. Previous litigation had imposed management restrictions that required the state to maintain wildlife habitat and public recreation values while the borough was partially prohibited from commercial or industrial uses on its lands. In 1984 the Shuyak State Park was established from part of the state's holdings to protect the area's fish and wildlife habitat and public recreation opportunities, while maintaining customary hunting and fishing uses. "One of the provisions of the spill settlement was the establishment of a joint federal and state council to manage remediation and recovery efforts. These responsibilities include the replacement of lost fish and wildlife habitat with the acquisition and protection of other high value habitat. It is for this purpose that the Oil Spill Trustee Council selected the borough's Shuyak Island lands and purchased them in 1996. The final part of this effort is the consolidation of the lands under the protective management of the Shuyak State Park. "SB 64 completes the transaction by formally incorporating all state lands on the island into the Shuyak Island State Park. The expanded park retains the management goals, purposes, and allowed uses of the original park." Number 060 CHAIRMAN MACKIE directed attention to a proposed amendment to page 1, line 10, which inserts the words "commercial fishing". Number 075 SENATOR DONLEY moved adoption of the following Amendment No. 1: Amendment No. 1 Page 1, line 10: Following "fishing," insert "commercial fishing" Hearing no objection, VICE CHAIRMAN WILKEN stated the amendment was adopted and would be incorporated into a C&RA committee substitute. Vice Chairman Wilken returned the gavel to Chairman Mackie. Number 090 CHAIRMAN MACKIE stated testimony would be taken from Mayor Selby, who was standing by in Kodiak. MAYOR JEROME SELBY , Kodiak Island Borough, said there are several reasons why the transfer of these lands from the Kodiak Island Borough into the Shuyak State Park was pursued, but the most significant was that in all of the studies that were done following the 1989 oil spill event, it was found Shuyak Island has more of the species that were impacted by the spill. It is probably the most critical habitat area in terms of the recovering species, including the bird species and the marine mammal species. Mayor Selby said the Kodiak Island Borough has supported the increase in the size of Shuyak Island Park for many years mainly because of the opportunity for increased tourism activities and as a means to diversify their economy. The area is also important to Kodiak's commercial fishing fleet, and is used heavily by people from Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula for recreation, hunting, fishing, etc. Mayor Selby pointed out that the effort to make the entire island into Shuyak State Park is supported by virtually every group in Kodiak. In closing, Mayor Selby urged passage of SB 64, as well as voicing support for the adopted amendment. Number 175 SENATOR HOFFMAN asked how many acres are involved in these land transfers. MAYOR SELBY responded that 26,000 acres were acquired from the Kodiak Island Borough and there is an additional three to four acres of state land on the eastern boundary that would also be incorporated into the park. Number 190 BARBARA RUDIO , Chairman of the Kodiak State Parks Advisory Board, testifying from Kodiak voiced the Board's strong support for SB 64 and urged its passage. CHAIRMAN MACKIE asked if there was any opposition in Kodiak to the transfer of these lands, and both MS. RUDIO and MAYOR SELBY said they were not aware of any opposition. Number 205 JIM STRATTON , Director, Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation, Department of Natural Resources, read the following statement into the record: "I am pleased to be here today to testify in support of SB 64. The existing Shuyak Island State Park provides some of the best fishing and hunting opportunities in the state park system. When the park was first created in 1984, the legislature provided for four public use cabins that have become some of the more popular in the park system, especially for silver fishing in August and deer hunting in the fall. Travel to the park is primarily by floatplane from either Kodiak or Homer and is a significant economic boost to air taxi operators and guides in both communities. "This bill, SB 64, would perpetuate these fish, wildlife, and recreational opportunities by expanding the park's boundaries to encompass two major pieces of the island whose current and future uses are legally restricted for fish and wildlife habitat and public recreation purposes. The 9,900 acres of existing state land are restricted by legal settlement between the state and the Kodiak Island Borough. This legal settlement resulted from a disagreement over municipal entitlements and sets forth in a consent decree signed in 1981 that these lands may only be used for wildlife habitat and public recreation. Plans for that acreage to become a state game refuge were never completed and are now included in this park expansion. "In 1995, the EVOS Trustee Council purchased some land from the Kodiak Island Borough to assist in the recovery of species impacted by the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The Borough, as represented earlier by Mayor Selby, sold the land with the expectation that it would be added to the park to perpetuate its fishing, hunting, and recreational uses. The conservation easement held on those properties by the federal government restrict uses to those which will maintain the existing fish and wildlife habitat and it allows for public recreation. State parks has a long history of providing recreational access in a habitat friendly manner and we look forward to providing that access in an expanded Shuyak Island State Park. "Once these additions have been established as part of the park system, state parks will undertake a revision of the current park master plan to include the new acreage in an island wide plan for trails, campsites, possible new cabin sites, and anchorages. As funds and volunteers are made available, these new access opportunities will be realized. Park designation does not diminish any existing hunting, fishing, or trapping rights on the island. The parks' original 1984 legislation is very clear in its intent that management of fish and game, especially commercial fishing, is the responsibility of the Department of Fish and Game. Parks works cooperatively with Fish and Game by managing two fish counting weirs in the existing park to help determine commercial fish openings. "Management of the island will cost the park system only a minimal amount as we already have a seasonally staffed Ranger Station on the Island and a volunteer program that brings two to four volunteers to assist the Ranger every summer. The increased cost of management is for extra boat gas to access the shoreline of the newly expanded park. We are currently expanding the visitor opportunities in the existing park through a developed trail system and new visitor contact state funded by the state's Exxon Valdez criminal settlement through the Division of Parks' Marine Recreation project. "Shuyak's existing reputation as a fishing and hunting destination in the late summer and fall is expanding as Alaskans, local tourism companies and adventure travelers from around the world discover its unique kayaking and small boating opportunities to not only fish, but also observe marine mammals and seabirds, as well as terrestrial wildlife. The proposed park expansion will add Shuyak to the other great park units in Alaska (Chugach, Kachemak Bay, Denali and Wood-Tikchik) as a popular topic for adventure travel and sportsman magazines seeking new and exciting destinations to share with their readers. I just met with a local travel writer last week that was interested in writing about Shuyak's diverse fishing, hunting, and recreational opportunities. Designation of the entire island as a park will significantly add to the allure of Shuyak and increase its notoriety in Alaska as a recreational destination. This is good for Alaskan hunters, fishermen, and boaters and good for those businesses providing transportation and support. I urge your support of this bill." Number 275 SENATOR PHILLIPS asked if the definition of "recreational activities" includes snow machines and ATVs. MR. STRATTON answered that it includes snow machines and ATVs, but the conservation easement on the parcel that came from the borough specifically doesn't allow ATVs. Responding to Senator Donley, he said he didn't think there was anything the Legislature could do about the restriction. MAYOR SELBY further explained that ATVs on the type of environment they have on Kodiak Island creates a great deal of erosion. The erosion runs down and fills up the salmon streams and destroys the salmon population. He pointed out that the beauty of Shuyak Island is that it is small enough so it can be easily hiked in a day. Number 323 MICHELE DRUMMOND , a Kodiak Island resident testifying in Juneau in support of SB 64, said she thinks the Shuyak Island Park is a good idea because it would preserve the island as it is and because it is an economic resource the community of Kodiak greatly needs as well. She noted the island is inhabited by Sitka blacktail deer and brown bear and that there is excellent salmon and halibut fishing around the island. She also noted that it is a good kayaking area. Number 350 KEN THOMPSON of Juneau stated he was part of the volunteer program on Shuyak Island during the summer of 1995, and that it was one of the best summers of his life. He said it is a magnificent place with a great abundance of wildlife for hunting and sports fishing. He added that he doesn't think the terrain on the island is suitable for snow machines or ATVs. Number 395 CHAIRMAN MACKIE noted access to public lands is an area of concern to many people, and legislation has been introduced that addresses the issue. He asked Mayor Selby if the prohibition of ATVs in Shuyak State Park was part of the negotiated sale agreement. MAYOR SELBY responded that it is a very contentious issue on Kodiak Island right now; there is a number of other land areas that are being destroyed through improper ATV utilization. In fact, they are looking at some ways to restrict the use of ATVs on the entire Kodiak Island. He suggested that if ATVs were allowed in Shuyak State Park, it would require additional park staff in order to regulate their use. SENATOR DONLEY commented that he didn't think anybody on the committee is suggesting that ATVs should be allowed where they are inappropriate with the conditions of that specific land, but there is concern about blanket prohibitions on their use and these conditions that come with the land so that there is no option for their proper utilization. Number 435 There being no further testimony on SB 64, CHAIRMAN MACKIE asked for the pleasure of the committee. SENATOR DONLEY moved CSSB 64(CRA) and the accompanying fiscal notes be passed out of committee with individual recommendations. Hearing no objection, it was so ordered.