Legislature(1993 - 1994)
03/22/1993 09:07 AM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE BILL NO. 82 An Act relating to the Dalton Highway. Co-chair Pearce directed that SB 82 be brought on for discussion and referenced a draft, handwritten SFC fiscal note for the Dept. of Public Safety, which she explained was in the process of being typed in final form. Co-chair Frank said that the draft SFC note reduces the department note from $786.7 to $99.0. He explained that over the six years he has worked on opening the Dalton, the only concern that appears to have legitimacy relates to possible pressure upon fish and game resources. While the Dept. of Fish and Game has not expressed concern, the Dept. of Public Safety has requested additional fish and wildlife protection officers to monitor the highway. The department requested two full- time blue shirts, a full-time brown shirt and a seasonal brown shirt. The SFC note funds three seasonal brown shirts to address additional impact on fish and game resources. Most of the hunting and fishing pressure will occur during the summer and fall. Senator Kerttula voiced his belief that opening of the road would cost more than funding set forth on the draft note. He further commented on enforcement needs along the Copper River Highway should it open. SENATOR LINCOLN next came before committee. She referenced questions raised when the bill was before Senate Transportation and acknowledged receipt of a memo in response from Senator Frank. She then urged members to carefully consider the overall impact of opening the Dalton. Senator Lincoln suggested that not all departments have been open in terms of what the ultimate cost will be. Senator Lincoln referenced an environmental assessment, before the Tanana Chiefs Conference, dealing with environmental impact from mile 0 to 56 and noted that it was not part of committee documentation on SB 82. The assessment notes significant impact on fisheries and fur- bearing habitat as a result of tourism in the area. The Senator suggested that members consider the road as a whole rather than merely a portion of it when calculating costs. She further commented on debris along the highway (tires, broken pieces of trailers, broken-down vehicles, and ordinary trash). Senator Lincoln further questioned liability associated with the opening of additional portions of the haul road, noting specifically a lack of pullouts and white-out conditions occasioned by dust and flying rocks. She stressed that the Dalton is a commercial rather than a tourist highway. Tourism will merely be a byproduct. Senator Lincoln next directed attention to Resolution 93-129 from the Tanana Chiefs Conference and read the following: BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Tanana Chiefs Conference opposes the opening of the haul road by either the Alaska Legislature or Governor Hickel unless a negotiated settlement is reached with the state and the villages. The foregoing provides an opening for the state to sit down with villages and discuss concerns. The Senator further pointed to ongoing litigation between the Tanana Chiefs and the state. Oral arguments are to commence this summer. Many questions surrounding opening of the road have not yet been answered. In her closing remarks, Senator Lincoln raised questions concerning the potential financial burden opening of the road might place upon the state. In response to a question from Senator Jacko, Senator Lincoln attested to concern relating to impact upon villages along the haul road corridor, fish and game, fire protection, subsistence use, etc. Senator Frank noted that the proposed agreement by TCC is, according to the Dept. of Law, unacceptable. End, SFC-93, #43, Side 1 Begin, SFC-93, #43, Side 2 Co-chair Frank reiterated that impact upon of fish and game resources is a legitimate concern. He then voiced his belief the impact would not be significant, but he agreed that additional fish and wildlife officers and funding for Dept. of Fish and Game monitoring represent reasonable approaches. The Senator again stressed that the general public should have the right to drive a state-owned highway. There is no overriding or compelling reason for the last portion of the road to remain closed when other parts of the highway have been incrementally opened over the years with no "bad experience." The fact that the road is open at least half way has not resulted in significantly detrimental impact. Senator Kelly asked if passage of the proposed bill would eliminate existing litigation. Co-chair Frank responded affirmatively, voicing his understanding that the legal issue relates to whether or not the Governor has authority to open the road. Senator Frank next referred to past intent language suggesting that the Dept. of Transportation work with oil industry lease-holders to provide access "all the way to the Arctic Ocean in a way that met their security needs . . . ." Co-chair Pearce advised of an existing commercial tourism business in Deadhorse. The visitor center owned by ARCO received over 6,000 visitors last year. Two enterprises (one operated by NANA Regional Corporation and one by a private contractor in Fairbanks) provide a commercial tour by minivan from Deadhorse to oil industry facilities and the Arctic Ocean. Senator Lincoln reiterated that both the Tanana Chiefs and North Slope Borough remain opposed to the opening. She next directed attention to February 26, 1993, correspondence (copy on file in the permanent Senate Finance file for SB 82) from Ron Somerville, Deputy Commissioner, Dept. of Fish and Game, and noted the following: Opening this portion of the Dalton Highway to the public will increase use of the Dalton Highway Corridor and areas accessible from the road by non-local residents and nonresidents for hunting, fishing, and possibly trapping. . . . Increasing public use will require or encourage development of new and expansion of existing facilities to serve highway travelers. There is thus no question that once the road is open, increased impact will occur. Co-chair Pearce responded that although a portion of the road is now closed, lack of enforcement of that closure has essentially resulted in a completely open road for which the state is unable to utilize federal highway moneys. Only official opening of the road through statute will allow use of federal highway dollars for maintenance of a primary artery for state revenues. She suggested that the state may actually be more liable now than it will be once the road is completely opened. Senator Lincoln countered by advising that the road does not now experience the traffic flow it will once the public knows that the entire road is open. The current public perception is that it is not an open road. Comments followed by Senator Frank regarding the number of recreational vehicles visiting the state as a whole and Fairbanks in particular. He suggested of the 14,500 each year, approximately 80% visit Fairbanks and perhaps 10% to 20% would travel the haul road. The average stay of highway travelers is 14 days. A trip up the Dalton and back would add another 4 days. Co-chair Frank acknowledged that there would be traffic impact, advising: I wouldn't be trying to get it opened if I didn't think there'd be some positive tourism impact. I don't think it will be significant. I don't think it will be 14,000. That's for sure. I think it'll be more like 1,400, maybe, additional. In response to a question from Senator Kerttula, Senator Frank noted that hunting and fishing, with the exception of bow and arrow, are prohibited within a five-mile corridor along each side of the road. That is a protection this road enjoys that other state roads do not. Senator Lincoln said that she frequently drives the road. She stressed that it is extremely dangerous. Rampart has had very few legal moose "because it looks like the New York Freeway when moose season opens." Resources in the area are significantly impacted. She referenced the previously mentioned environmental assessment and noted a proposed re- routing of the highway to lessen the impact. That would be costly. In her closing remarks, Senator Lincoln expressed appreciation to Co-chair Frank and his staff for working with her office on the issue. Co-chair Pearce called for additional testimony on SB 82. None was forthcoming. She then referenced the Senate Transportation Committee version of the bill as well as fiscal notes from the Dept. of Fish and Game, SFC note for the Dept. of Public Safety, and zero notes from the Dept. of Natural Resources and the Dept. of Transportation and Public Facilities. Senator Kelly voiced understanding that the letter of intent earlier mentioned by Co-chair Frank would be offered on the Floor of the Senate. Co-chair Frank concurred. Senator Kerttula voiced concern that the bill would ultimately cost much more than fiscal notes indicate. Co- chair Frank questioned the credibility of the original Dept. of Public Safety note. Co-chair Pearce suggested that pressure on fish and game resources along the highway comes from Alaskans rather than tourists. The SFC fiscal note acknowledges that in provision of the three seasonal positions. Senator Kelly said he had not supported opening the road in the past. The proposal is more palatable at this time in light of new ISTEA funding which would replace state general funds with federal dollars. Senator Sharp voiced his belief that Co-chair Frank has responsibly addressed potential impact and the need for additional brown shirts to cover high-pressure hunting and fishing seasons. Co-chair Frank MOVED that CSSB 82 (TRA) pass from committee with accompanying fiscal notes from DOTPF, DNR, DF&G, and the SFC note for the Dept. of Public Safety. Senator Rieger inquired concerning the amount of the Dept. of Fish and Game note. Co-chair Frank explained that the requested $16.1 would provide a seasonal fish and wildlife technician III for three months to monitor hunting activities along the road. No objection to passage having been raised, CSSB 82 (TRA) was REPORTED OUT of committee with zero fiscal notes from the Dept. of Natural Resources and the Dept. of Transportation and Public Facilities, a $16.1 note from the Dept. of Fish and Game, and a $99.0 SFC note for the Dept. of Public Safety. Co-chairs Frank and Pearce and Senators Jacko and Sharp signed the committee report with a "do pass" recommendation. Senators Kelly, Kerttula, and Rieger signed "no rec." ANNOUNCEMENT Co-chair Pearce announced that the committee would meet at 9:00 a.m. March 23, 1993, to discuss a committee substitute for supplemental funding (SB 100) as well as SB 112 and SB 149, relating respectively to universal commercial code and banking code revisions. ADJOURNMENT The meeting was adjourned at approximately 10:40 a.m.