Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/29/1996 08:08 AM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
  SENATE BILL NO. 265                                                          
       An Act  relating to  receipts  of commercial  fisheries                 
       test fishing operations; and providing for an effective                 
  Co-chairman Halford directed  that SB 265 be  brought on for                 
  discussion.   Senator Zharoff explained  that he  introduced                 
  the  bill  to enhance  Dept.  of  Fish and  Game  ability to                 
  successfully  manage the changing nature of Alaska's complex                 
  fisheries.  It  will form part  of the management scheme  to                 
  utilize  private sector  vessels,  gear,  and  expertise  to                 
  conduct  test  fisheries.   Funds  derived  from  these test                 
  fisheries will accrue  as designated program receipts.   The                 
  bill   does  not   impact   the  legislature's   ability  to                 
  appropriate, but  it streamlines  the process  in conducting                 
  test  fisheries.    A  number of  test  fisheries  have been                 
  proposed, but the department  has not, in the past,  had the                 
  flexibility nor the resources  to follow through.    Senator                 
  Zharoff asked that  department staff speak to  the specifics                 
  of the program.                                                              
  END:      SFC-96, #59, Side 2                                                
  BEGIN:    SFC-96, #60, Side 1                                                
  KEVIN BROOKS, Director, Division of Administrative Services,                 
  Dept. of Fish and Game, came before committee.  He explained                 
  that the bill would reclassify approximately $2.2 million in                 
  program receipt authority that would not hereafter roll into                 
  departmental caps.                                                           
  As  background  information,  Mr.  Brooks  noted  that  test                 
  fishery  receipts in  the current  year were  part  of OMB's                 
  classification as  designated program receipts  because they                 
  are based on a contractual relationship.   Proceeds from the                 
  sale of  fish caught during  a test fishery are  used to pay                 
  for  the boat  chartered  to  conduct  the  fishery.    Test                 
  fisheries have the  potential to extend seasons  or open new                 
  seasons.    Attempts to  develop the  sea urchin  fishery in                 
  Southeast was cited as an example.   These efforts have been                 
  hampered because  the department cannot  ask for  additional                 
  receipt  authority "because it runs  up against our caps and                 
  shows as  an increase to  the general fund."   OMB took  the                 
  first  step  in  designating these  program  receipts.   The                 
  proposed bill  would remove  those funds  from general  fund                 
  calculations.    It   does  not   cut  dollars,  it   merely                 
  reclassifies them.   The  test fishery  receipt program  has                 
  been  part  of  the  department's  management  program since                 
  before statehood.                                                            
  Co-chairman Frank requested a comparison of the current flow                 
  of funds versus that contemplated by the proposed bill.  Mr.                 
  Brooks  explained  that  the department  presently  receives                 
  authority, through  the legislative process, to  receive and                 
  expend approximately $2.2 million in program receipts.  That                 
  is in the  base budget.   Under the proposed bill,  receipts                 
  would  continue  to  flow through  the  general  fund to  be                 
  requested  by  the   department  and  appropriated  by   the                 
  legislature.  Moneys in excess of expenditures would flow as                 
  unrestricted  revenue to the general  fund.  The only change                 
  is that the receipts would  not roll into department general                 
  fund totals.  These moneys would show as other funds.                        
  Senator Rieger  referenced AS  37.05.146,  which contains  a                 
  list of exclusions from what flows through the general fund.                 
  It appears that these receipts are merely being added to the                 
  PAUL  LARSON, Deputy  Director  for Fisheries,  Division  of                 
  Commercial Fisheries, explained that test fishery funds have                 
  been used  to  conduct research  throughout the  state.   He                 
  cited  use  in  Prince  William  Sound to  identify  pollack                 
  resources which  had not  previously been harvested  because                 
  the department had  no information  on abundance.   Contract                 
  with a local fisherman and sale of pollack caught during the                 
  test generated sufficient funds to assess pollack  resources                 
  and conduct a new fishery in Prince William Sound.                           
  Senator Sharp  asked if a  test fish fund  presently exists.                 
  Kevin  Brooks  explained that  the  proposed bill  would not                 
  establish  a  separate fund.    Test fishery  moneys  do not                 
  constitute designated  funds in the same respect as the fish                 
  and game fund.  There is currently a test fishery account.                   
  Discussion of potential for a sea urchin fishery followed.                   
  DEAN PADDOCK, Executive Director,  Bristol Bay Driftnetters'                 
  Association, came before  committee in support of  the bill.                 
  He  concurred   in  comments  that  the   legislation  would                 
  streamline department ability to manage.                                     
  Mr. Paddock advised that he  instituted the first state test                 
  fishery operation in 1960, based on a borrowed idea from the                 
  sockeye  commission   on  the  Fraser  River.     Management                 
  biologists  need  the   information  obtained  through  test                 
  fishing.  Commercial fishermen in Bristol Bay greatly depend                 
  on  test  catches  which precede  openings.    Management of                 
  resources in this area  would not be as precise  without the                 
  test fishery.                                                                
  In response  to comments  concerning the  impact of  reduced                 
  funding on fishery programs, Senator Sharp stressed that the                 
  budget for the division of commercial fisheries increased in                 
  FY  96 over  what it  was the  previous year.    Mr. Paddock                 
  attested   to   increasing   complexities  associated   with                 
  effective  management.   Initial  program  budgets  are  not                 
  keeping pace with overall demands.  Senator Sharp reiterated                 
  that while  the division did not receive  what it requested,                 
  it received more than the previous year.                                     
  Comments  followed  by  Mr.  Paddock  regarding  smolt  out-                 
  migration on the Egegik River.                                               
  Senator Zharoff noted a request  from Co-chairman Frank that                 
  he be  allowed  a day  in which  to review  the  bill.   Co-                 
  chairman  Halford voiced  support  for the  legislation  and                 
  advised  that it would  be again taken  up at  the next bill                 

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