Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/20/1996 03:40 PM RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
                                                                               
        SB 223 APPROVE CLOSING SITUK TO MINERAL ENTRY                        
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  called the Senate Resources Committee meeting to             
 order at 3:40 p.m.  He brought SB 223 before the committee as the             
 first order of business.                                                      
  GERON BRUCE , Legislative Liaison, Alaska Department of Fish & Game,         
 said the legislation actually originated through a land planning              
 process conducted by the Department of Natural Resources.  He noted           
 there was a thorough public review with all the parties involved,             
 and there was no objection to the recommendation in that plan to              
 close the bed of the Situk River and associated lakes and lagoons             
 to new mineral entry.  The Department of Natural Resources executed           
 such an order in April 1995.  SB 223 is required in order to                  
 prevent the order from expiring and to make the closure permanent.            
                                                                               
 Mr. Bruce pointed out the Situk River is the most important river             
 in the Yakutat area and in the state.  It is important to a                   
 multiplicity of users, including commercial fishing for sockeye and           
 coho and recreational fishing.                                                
                                                                               
 Mr. Bruce explained it is important to take action on the                     
 legislation by April 6, because it is a closure that exceeds 640              
 acres, and the interim classification expires on the 90th day of              
 the session unless a law is enacted making it permanent.                      
                                                                               
 Number 090                                                                    
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  inquired if there are currently any working mining           
 claims in these areas on the Situk.   NICO BUS , Acting Director,             
 Division of Support Services, Department of Natural Resources,                
 responded that there are no mining claims in the area right now.              
                                                                               
 Number 100                                                                    
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  stated testimony would be taken via teleconference           
 from witnesses waiting to testify in Yakutat.                                 
                                                                               
  CRAIG SWANSON , testifying on behalf of the City & Borough of                
 Yakutat Salmon Enhancement Board in support of SB 223, said the               
 board met earlier in the day and passed a motion to oppose mineral            
 entry of any kind on the Situk River.                                         
                                                                               
 Number 127                                                                    
                                                                               
  JOHN VALE , Chairman of the Yakutat Fish & Game Advisory Committee,          
 said the Situk is the life blood of the economy of Yakutat.  He               
 noted that according a study done by the Department of Fish & Game            
 in 1988, the recreational fishery, just on the  Situk River,                  
 contributed $2.8 million to the Yakutat economy, and since that               
 time, that recreational fishery has expanded by 18 percent.  It is            
 also a multi-million dollar commercial fishery, with 170 set net              
 permits in the Yakutat area out of which approximately half of them           
 fish on the Situk River.  The Situk represents about 50 percent of            
 the commercial fishing income for their area.  The study also                 
 relates that 73 percent of the subsistence salmon harvested in the            
 Yakutat area come from the Situk River.  He urged the committee's             
 support for SB 223.                                                           
 Number 165                                                                    
                                                                               
  DON BREMNER , President of Yak-Tat Kwaan, Inc., stated the                   
 corporation's and shareholders' support for SB 223.  He said the              
 facts stated in the bill regarding the significance of approving              
 the interim classification are right on, although he clarified that           
 it should be referred to as the Yakutat area instead of the                   
 Yakataga area.                                                                
                                                                               
 Number 200                                                                    
                                                                               
  BART ADAMS , President, Yakutat Chamber of Commerce, testifying in           
 support of SB 223, stated the chamber's board and fisheries                   
 committee unanimously oppose any mineral entry being allowed on the           
 Situk River and its drainage due to the potential damage to the               
 river and its valuable resources.                                             
                                                                               
  RAY SENSMEIER , President, Alaska Native Brotherhood, Yakutat,               
 stated their support for SB 223, as well as the support of the                
 Alaska Native Sisterhood.                                                     
                                                                               
 Number 228                                                                    
                                                                               
  STEVE BORELL , Executive Director, Alaska Miners Association,                
 testifying from Anchorage, voiced the association's support for SB
 223 and their recognition of the tremendous steelhead fishery.  He            
 noted a lot of their members are also fishermen, both commercial in           
 some areas of the state and recreational.  Speaking to an amendment           
 being proposed by the Alaska Miners Association, he said it would             
 leave the river bed and the estuaries and the waters untouched, but           
 it would provide an opportunity for the state to also utilize its             
 mineral deposits if such were to be found.  It will provide an                
 opportunity, it would not forever close the door or sterilize any             
 mineral resources that might be there.  He noted underground mining           
 occurs throughout the world and it has absolutely no affect on the            
 surface.                                                                      
                                                                               
 Number 257                                                                    
                                                                               
  JULES TILESTON , Director, Division of Mining & Water Management,            
 Department of Natural Resources, testifying from Anchorage,                   
 confirmed the division did a search of the Situk mining claim                 
 records in December.  As of that date, there were no mining claims            
 or leases in the state system, so as far as state lands are                   
 concerned, there are no outstanding mineral rights.                           
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  requested that Mr. Tileston reserve the rest of              
 testimony until later in the meeting so that testimony could be               
 taken from an individual who was waiting to testify from an                   
 airplane on another bill.  He then set SB 223 aside.                          
  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  brought  SB 223  (APPROVE CLOSING SITUK TO MINERAL           
 ENTRY) back before the committee, and requested that Mr. Tileston             
 continue with his testimony.                                                  
                                                                               
  JULES TILESTON  reconfirmed that state mining claim records were             
 checked and there are no mining claims and no mineral leases                  
 associated with the area that is within SB 223.                               
                                                                               
 Mr. Tileston noted there was a four-year planning process that                
 included numerous public meetings in Cordova, Yakutat, Juneau and             
 Seward, as well as receipt of approximately 270 written comments              
 and the mailing of 13 newsletters mailed to 750 individuals and               
 organizations.  He added there was no opposition to the proposal              
 before the committee.                                                         
                                                                               
  JIM RICHARDSON , testifying on his own behalf and several sport fish         
 associates who have fished the Situk River with him for the last 20           
 years, voiced his support for SB 223.  He said it is very                     
 appropriate to continue to protect the river, and he urged passage            
 of the legislation.                                                           
                                                                               
 Number 414                                                                    
                                                                               
  CLIFF EAMES , representing the Alaska Center for the Environment in          
 Anchorage, stated their support for SB 223 because they believe it            
 deserves the highest possible level of protection.                            
                                                                               
  JEFF PARKER , Vice Chair, State Council of Trout Unlimited,                  
 testified from Anchorage in support of SB 223.  He spoke of his               
 familiarity with the river and the importance of the area being               
 closed to mineral entry.  He said the steelhead trout is just now             
 coming back from a couple of drought years in the early 1990's,               
 with approximately 5,000 steelhead coming back to the river last              
 year.  He said it is a very important sport fishery and he strongly           
 supports the bill because of the unique production of this river.             
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  said there was testimony of the Situk's value as a           
 commercial stream and also a sports stream, and he asked if there             
 is any conflict between the two.   MR. PARKER  answered that there            
 has been concern about out-migrating steelhead being caught in the            
 spring by the set gill fishery that targets incoming sockeye.                 
 There is also an issue of whether steelheads should be classified             
 as a customary and traditional subsistence stock, and that question           
 has been before the federal regional subsistence council, but he              
 does not know how that issue was resolved.                                    
                                                                               
 Number 465                                                                    
                                                                               
  SENATOR TAYLOR  asked Mr. Parker if there are any known mineral              
 deposits within this approximately 2,700 acres that anyone is                 
 threatening to develop so that there would need to be a closure               
 imposed.   MR. PARKER  responded no, but he noted that in                     
 Southcentral Alaska they have seen mining claims that are basically           
 phony mining claims and are used for recreational cabins or create            
 problems in land status and land use, including assertions of                 
 trespass that aren't sustainable as a matter of law but,                      
 nevertheless, are asserted.  Those kinds of things happen on high             
 quality fisheries.                                                            
                                                                               
  SENATOR TAYLOR  questioned if there is an actual threat from mining          
 or mineral properties today.   MR. TILESTON  responded that to his            
 knowledge there are no threats of potential mining in the area, but           
 as Mr. Parker testified to, sometimes the mining laws are not                 
 properly used to the discredit of the legitimate mining industry.             
 That has happened and it tends to happen where there are high                 
 recreational values and exceedingly marginal mineral values.                  
                                                                               
 SENATOR TAYLOR  said his concern is that every time he has seen the           
 mineral laws misused in this state for the purpose of locating a              
 recreational cabin in an area, it's because there was no other way            
 possible to get a recreational cabin in that area because the state           
 or the federal government owned every bit of the land and would not           
 allow anyone to live on it or purchase a piece of it.  He added               
 that's with the exception of certain retired banker millionaires              
 that get to own beautiful homes on the Kenai.  He also stated for             
 the record that he thinks that if there is a threat to the Situk,             
 there are two areas from which that threat is going to occur.  One            
 is commercial fishing activity conducted at the mouth of that                 
 stream that may very well impact out-migrant stocks in the spring             
 of the year if not carefully regulated, and the second, which is              
 much more ominous, is if the federal government does, in fact, take           
 over through subsistence law the regulation and management of that            
 stream and it is left wide open for "subsistence harvesting" all              
 the way up the stream with monofilament gillnets.                             
                                                                               
 There being no further testimony on SB 223,  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  stated           
 the bill would be set aside until a quorum was established.                   

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