Legislature(2011 - 2012)BUTROVICH 205

03/28/2011 03:30 PM Senate RESOURCES

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
Heard & Held
Question/Answers by Departments/Agencies:
Heard & Held
-- Includes Public Comment --
Moved CSHJR 19(RES) Out of Committee
-- Includes Public Comment --
                  SCR  9-TAKU RIVER TASK FORCE                                                                              
4:40:11 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  WAGONER  announced the  consideration  of  [SCR 9]  and                                                               
asked the  co-chair for a  motion to bring the  resolution before                                                               
the committee.                                                                                                                  
4:41:31 PM                                                                                                                    
Brief at ease.                                                                                                                  
CO-CHAIR  PASKVAN moved  to bring  SCR 9,  version A,  before the                                                               
CO-CHAIR WAGONER objected for discussion purposes.                                                                              
JESSE KIEHL, staff  to Senator Egan, sponsor of SCR  9, said that                                                               
over the last  few years, Alaskans in Southeast  have discussed a                                                               
wide variety  of ideas  about the Taku  River, and  sometimes the                                                               
conversations were  heated. He explained  that the  proposed Taku                                                               
River Task  Force would  provide a  forum for  future discussions                                                               
and recommendations for  the best management of  the resources in                                                               
that river. The  task force was designed to  represent a balanced                                                               
cross section  of user-groups and was  small enough so as  to not                                                               
be unwieldy.  Their recommendations would  be due by  December 1,                                                               
SENATOR STEDMAN said he wasn't sure what the resolution did.                                                                    
CO-CHAIR WAGONER summarized  that it establishes a  task force to                                                               
review  the requests  for restrictions  and  opinions about  what                                                               
should  be done  with the  waterway. A  proposal from  a Canadian                                                               
mining company was to run a  hovercraft up the river. He asked if                                                               
that was two years ago.                                                                                                         
MR.  KIEHL clarified  that there  wasn't a  current proposal  for                                                               
permits, but  past proposals have  raised concerns  and questions                                                               
about  activity on  the river.  The task  force would  review the                                                               
issues and  the associated science,  but the sponsor  didn't want                                                               
the resolution  to presuppose  anything. The  idea was  to gather                                                               
the  best  knowledge  and  consider  all  the  interests  of  all                                                               
resource  users  before  making  any  recommendations  to  public                                                               
agencies. Recommendations to change  regulations would go through                                                               
a public process  and recommendations to change the  law would go                                                               
before the legislature.                                                                                                         
CO-CHAIR WAGONER asked if it  was presumptuous to suggest putting                                                               
sideboards on the task force.                                                                                                   
4:46:07 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. KIEHL replied  the first thing a task force  like this should                                                               
do is to  get up to speed on the  existing rules, regulations and                                                               
SENATOR  STEDMAN  asked  for  confirmation  that  the  resolution                                                               
wouldn't preclude  a recommendation  to build  a road  or railway                                                               
into the area.                                                                                                                  
MR. KIEHL replied  this resolution does not tie the  hands of the                                                               
group  before it  starts meeting.  If the  recommendation of  the                                                               
task force was  to build a road or railway,  that's what it would                                                               
bring forward.                                                                                                                  
SENATOR STEDMAN asked  if the task force would  be precluded from                                                               
asking for an expansion of wilderness designations.                                                                             
MR.  KIEHL replied  the task  force could  theoretically come  up                                                               
with that recommendation as well.                                                                                               
SENATOR STEDMAN pointed  out that both the Taku  River valley and                                                               
the Stikine River valley have  been trade routes for thousands of                                                               
years,  and a  long-term goal  in Southeast  has been  to develop                                                               
access to the  outside. One corridor was north up  the Lynn Canal                                                               
and  others were  the Taku,  the  Stikine and  the Bradfield.  He                                                               
questioned the composition and narrow  representation of the task                                                               
MR. KIEHL explained  that the task force would  include the three                                                               
elected legislators from the Juneau  area, and their positions on                                                               
increasing access to  the area are matters of  public record. The                                                               
commissioner  of fish  and game  or  the commissioner's  designee                                                               
would also be a member. The  four public members would include 1)                                                               
one  owner of  private recreational  property in  the Taku  river                                                               
valley;  2) one  commercial fishing  permit holder  registered in                                                               
area  A; 3)  one owner  or employee  of a  business that  derives                                                               
significant  income from  transportation  to or  within the  Taku                                                               
River;  and 4)  one person  who uses  but does  not consume  Taku                                                               
River resources.                                                                                                                
MR.  KIEHL said  he  had no  reason to  believe  that radical  or                                                               
extreme recommendations would come from the task force.                                                                         
SENATOR STEVENS  asked for an  explanation of a "person  who uses                                                               
but does not consume Taku River resources."                                                                                     
MR.  KIEHL  replied the  notion  of  a non-consumptive  user  was                                                               
initially  inspired   by  the  local   fish  and   game  advisory                                                               
committee, and  was designed to  provide some breadth  of opinion                                                               
on the  issues. It would,  for example, include people  who float                                                               
rivers or take photographs.                                                                                                     
4:50:37 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR MCGUIRE  noted the controversy  related to  developing an                                                               
economic barging  or traffic corridor  in the area, and  asked if                                                               
consideration   was   given   to   putting   someone   from   the                                                               
transportation community on the task force.                                                                                     
MR. KIEHL  replied the task  force does have one  business member                                                               
that derives significant income  from transportation to or within                                                               
the  Taku River.  There  is an  established  business that  hauls                                                               
supplies to  the area, there's a  lodge in the area  and the area                                                               
is   serviced   by  a   number   businesses   that  provide   air                                                               
transportation  in  and out.  All  of  these businesses  have  an                                                               
interest in the future of the river.                                                                                            
SENATOR  MCGUIRE responded  that  there's  a distinction  between                                                               
those businesses and  a marine transportation company  or a barge                                                               
owner and their perspectives would  be widely divergent. She then                                                               
expressed  reservation  about delving  into  a  very local  issue                                                               
about which she knew very little.                                                                                               
4:53:48 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  WAGONER  agreed  that  this   was  a  local  issue  and                                                               
suggested that  the City and  Borough of Juneau should  bring the                                                               
resolution to the legislature.                                                                                                  
SENATOR STEDMAN highlighted that  there were long-standing treaty                                                               
issues with Canada  related to the Stikine corridor  and that may                                                               
or may  not be the  case with the Taku  corridor as well.  In any                                                               
event, that should be sorted out before going forward.                                                                          
MR.  KIEHL said  the Taku  River flows  across the  international                                                               
boundary so treaties  are involved, and there  was also interplay                                                               
between  the local  municipality and  various departments  within                                                               
the  state.  Those are  the  complexities  the task  force  would                                                               
address and  then bring their recommendations  to the appropriate                                                               
4:57:11 PM                                                                                                                    
KIRK  HARDCASTLE, commercial  fisherman and  owner/operator, Taku                                                               
River Reds,  stated support  for SCR 9.  He highlighted  that the                                                               
economic road map  of Taku River salmon shows  that they interact                                                               
with  all  the commercial  fish  processing  plants in  Southeast                                                               
Alaska. The  Taku River sustains  all five species of  salmon and                                                               
has active  commercial, sport and  subsistent fishing  for nearly                                                               
six months each year.                                                                                                           
4:58:58 PM                                                                                                                    
CHRIS CASEY,  professional fly fishing guide,  stated support for                                                               
SCR 9.  He described the  Taku River  as a vital  public economic                                                               
and cultural  resource. It is Southeast's  largest overall salmon                                                               
producer, and according to the  2004 McDowell report, the fishery                                                               
is worth over  $7 million annually and supports  nearly 500 jobs.                                                               
There  is   broad  support   for  increased   protection  through                                                               
NEIL  MACKINNON, secretary,  Taku  Users Group,  stated that  the                                                               
Taku River was the last  trans-boundary river not encumbered by a                                                               
park,   wilderness,  wild   and  scenic   or  other   restrictive                                                               
designation.  That  alone was  reason  for  cautious and  careful                                                               
consideration of the present and  future effect of any action. In                                                               
particular,   a  critical   habitat  designation   would  be   an                                                               
unjustifiable misallocation of Alaska's  resources that could not                                                               
provide commensurate benefit to its citizens.                                                                                   
5:03:10 PM                                                                                                                    
CHERI  RUDOLPH, president,  Taku  River Recreational  Association                                                               
(TRRA), said  it is TRRA's  position that  the need for  the Taku                                                               
River Task Force was unwarranted.  The impetus for the resolution                                                               
was to  further a continuing  agenda for special  interest groups                                                               
seeking a critical  habitat or a wild and  scenic designation for                                                               
this watershed.                                                                                                                 
CO-CHAIR WAGONER asked the current membership of the TRRA.                                                                      
MS.  RUDOLPH  replied one  year  ago  414 members  voted  against                                                               
critical habitat  for the area  and 18  in favor. She  noted that                                                               
the tally was submitted to the sponsor.                                                                                         
5:05:13 PM                                                                                                                    
NIEL ATKINSON,  representing himself,  said he  was a  Taku River                                                               
property owner who opposed SCR  9. He opined that appointments to                                                               
any task  force can be made  to ensure a certain  end result. The                                                               
resolution  doesn't direct  the task  force to  look at  historic                                                               
commercial and private  uses and future operations  that some may                                                               
feel are critical to the enjoyment of their lifestyle.                                                                          
5:06:51 PM                                                                                                                    
CARLEEN CONWAY, representing herself, said  she was a cabin owner                                                               
on the Taku River who opposed SCR  9. The idea for the task force                                                               
was  primarily brought  up by  a  special interest  group with  a                                                               
specific agenda. Furthermore, the  task force would not supersede                                                               
the ADF&G advisory committee  or the international trans-boundary                                                               
5:07:59 PM                                                                                                                    
ERROL  CHAMPION,   representing  himself,  said   the  supporting                                                               
material for the  resolution included an article  from the Juneau                                                               
Empire about wintertime  barge traffic on the Taku  River. He was                                                               
quoted  expressing  deep concern  about  the  project and  was  a                                                               
little  resentful  that it  was  included  since the  information                                                               
dated back  to 2008.  At this  point, both  the business  and the                                                               
project  were defunct,  and  there was  nothing  on record  about                                                               
future permit applications.  He said he was also  troubled by the                                                               
efforts  to  get  the  Taku River  area  designated  as  critical                                                               
habitat. He urged the committee not to pass the resolution.                                                                     
5:09:34 PM                                                                                                                    
JEV  SHELTON,  representing  himself, said  he  had  commercially                                                               
fished  the  Taku River  for  at  least  40  years and  hoped  to                                                               
continue.  He  stated  support for  proceeding  with  the  review                                                               
because the  Taku River  problems were  real. The  mining company                                                               
that proposed the hoverbarge operation  up and down the river did                                                               
fail  financially,  but  not  before   it  put  a  scare  in  the                                                               
community. Even  though it  was clear that  it would  wreak havoc                                                               
with the  fishery resource,  it appeared  to be  on the  verge of                                                               
being permitted.  He said the fishing-related  industry in Juneau                                                               
supports getting more  sensible control over the  things that can                                                               
occur to the  Taku River fishery habitat. He  emphasized that the                                                               
interest was  only in  maintaining the habitat  in the  river and                                                               
not  sacrificing   a  significant  part  of   the  non-government                                                               
employment in  the Juneau  community. He  said there  was already                                                               
another applicant  for that  mine and it  was a  misconception to                                                               
think  that  it  wasn't  the  right  time  to  set  up  a  proper                                                               
procedure, because the proposal will come up again.                                                                             
5:12:09 PM                                                                                                                    
RON SOMERVILLE,  Territorial Sportsmen  Inc., cautioned  that the                                                               
environmental  community  had  for  some  time  been  focused  on                                                               
establishing  an  international  body  to  govern  trans-boundary                                                               
rivers like  the Stikine and Taku.  He said he was  also somewhat                                                               
disappointed  that  the  task  force  did  not  include  a  sport                                                               
fisherman. He pointed  out that the resolution  was about barging                                                               
down  the Taku  River and  possibly impacting  fisheries, but  it                                                               
covered game  as well. He  recommended removing any  reference to                                                               
game  and  appointing  more  people   to  the  task  force,  with                                                               
particular  consideration  given  to  the  Territorial  Sportsmen                                                               
since  it  was  the  largest conservation  group  in  Juneau.  He                                                               
further suggested that if the report to the legislature was                                                                     
majority based that there should also be an opportunity for a                                                                   
minority report so that legislators could get the whole picture.                                                                
CO-CHAIR WAGONER announced he would hold SCR 9 in the Senate                                                                    
Resources Standing Committee.                                                                                                   
5:15:16 PM                                                                                                                    
There being no further business to come before the committee,                                                                   
CO-CHAIR WAGONER adjourned the Senate Resources Standing                                                                        
Committee meeting at 5:15 p.m.                                                                                                  

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
CSHJR 19 sponsor statement.pdf SRES 3/28/2011 3:30:00 PM
HJR 19
HJR 19 - EDT and RES Changes (for Senate Resources).pdf SRES 3/28/2011 3:30:00 PM
HJR 19
HJR 19 - Leg Research Report (revises 3.11.11).pdf SRES 3/28/2011 3:30:00 PM
HJR 19
HJR 19 - Senate Resources Hearing Request.pdf SRES 3/28/2011 3:30:00 PM
HJR 19
HJR 19 - Zero Fiscal Note.pdf SRES 3/28/2011 3:30:00 PM
HJR 19
HJR019C.PDF SRES 3/28/2011 3:30:00 PM
HJR 19
SCR 9_Sponsor Statement.pdf SRES 3/28/2011 3:30:00 PM
SCR 9_Version A.pdf SRES 3/28/2011 3:30:00 PM
SCR 9_Supporting Documents_Juneau AC Letter.pdf SRES 3/28/2011 3:30:00 PM
SCR 9_Supporting Documents_Map.pdf SRES 3/28/2011 3:30:00 PM
SCR 9_Supporting Documents_McDowell Taku Report ExSumm.pdf SRES 3/28/2011 3:30:00 PM
SCR 9_Supporting Documents_News Articles.pdf SRES 3/28/2011 3:30:00 PM