Legislature(2001 - 2002)
05/02/2002 03:47 PM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 165-KENAI RIVER SPECIAL MANAGEMENT AREA CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT said Senator Halford had some concerns about HB 165 but was called to the Governor's office. He announced he would hear the bill to get the issues out and hold it in committee. He said Representative Lancaster approached him earlier with a proposed CS that he would like to get on the table for consideration. He asked if Representative Lancaster wanted to make comments to the CS. REPRESENTATIVE KEN LANCASTER said yes. He noted that the proposed CS was version J. SENATOR PHILLIPS wanted to make sure that the township ranges had been thoroughly checked because there were mistakes made in the past. REPRESENTATIVE LANCASTER said there were mistakes when the process was started a couple of years ago that were corrected. He said HB 165 related to adding lands to the Kenai River Special Management Area (KRSMA). The CS takes out 3,543 acres along the south side of Kenai Lake from Snug Harbor Road up to the dam and the powerhouse at Cooper Lake. He hoped this would address concerns that were expressed to him. CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT asked if the road went through the highlighted area on the map in the bill packet. REPRESENTATIVE LANCASTER said it did. He said this process has been going on for at least two years. As mayor of Soldotna, he sat on the board that held public hearings about the addition of these lands. He noted they were all state lands and there would be no acquisition or purchasing of new lands. HB 165 would put the lands into the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) so that the lands could be managed by DNR. The plan was adopted after committee meetings and public hearings over two years in Anchorage and on the Kenai Peninsula. He said DNR adopted the language portion of the plan in December 1997. The lands must be transferred by the Legislature. This was what HB 165 attempts to do. SENATOR PHILLIPS asked how many acres were in the transfer. REPRESENTATIVE LANCASTER said about 4,200 acres. SENATOR PHILLIPS asked if that was reduced from 7,900. REPRESENTATIVE LANCASTER said yes. He noted that HB 165 had no fiscal note. CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT asked if moving the lands into this designation added restrictions on the use of the land. REPRESENTATIVE LANCASTER said DNR had a process to allow public access or use of the lands. The other departments that currently control this land did not. He believes HB 165 would give the public a process to be able to access the lands. CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT asked if the lands were in the general state domain in DNR. MR. JIM STRATTON, Director, Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation, Department of Natural Resources, said the lands were currently in general state lands and managed by the Division of Parks & Outdoor Recreation for outdoor recreation purposes. The addition of these lands would allow DNR to improve recreational access to the lands. He said there were a couple of projects DNR was interested in but they weren't able to sign the obligation that they would manage the lands and facilities for outdoor recreation access in perpetuity because the lands were not designated to Parks & Outdoor Recreation. He said when those lands were designated, they would be able to do that and begin to develop some projects such as improved boat launch ramps. CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT asked if there was any organized group in the area that opposed HB 165. MR. STRATTON said he was not aware of any. REPRESENTATIVE LANCASTER said he was not aware of any. He said Senator Torgerson had some concerns, but he hoped the CS would clear those concerns up. CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT asked if the CS had been brought to Senator Torgerson's attention. REPRESENTATIVE LANCASTER said a copy had been given to his aide. MR. STRATTON said DNR supported HB 165 with the proposed CS. CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT pointed at the map in the bill packet and asked if the highlighted area was the acreage the CS dropped out of the plan. REPRESENTATIVE LANCASTER & MR. STRATTON said that was correct. CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT pointed at the un-highlighted area of the map and asked if that was the acreage that was being added. REPRESENTATIVE LANCASTER said there was more acreage than the map showed. In addition to that acreage, there was also acreage in the Moose Pass area and on the upper part of the Kenai River. CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT asked if there was anybody present to testify regarding HB 165. MR. TED WELLMAN, President of the KRMSA Advisory Board, said he had served on the Board since 1995 and was instrumental in developing the plan that resulted in HB 165. He said he was also vice-president of the Kenai River Property Owners' Association. He said he was a 55-year resident of Alaska and had used the Kenai River all his life and had owned property there for over 20 years. He supported HB 165. The land additions were developed through the public hearing process with meetings in Anchorage, Soldotna, Cooper Landing and Moose Pass. He said the lands were selected close to the Kenai River so the entire watershed and habitat would be protected. He said he is not aware of any opposition. He said a number of organizations supported the addition of these lands, including the Cook Inlet Agriculture Association, the Cooper Landing Community Club, Alaska Fly Fishing, Alaska Wildland Adventures, the City of Soldotna, the Kenai Peninsula Borough, the Friends of Cooper Landing and the Kenai River Property Owners' Association. CHAIRMAN THERRAIULT asked if there were any questions for Mr. Wellman. There were none. MR. SAM MCDOWELL said he has lived in Alaska since 1948. He has been involved in resource management issues for over 50 years. He said if we don't support HB 165, we would never have a river like the Kenai again. He said habitat is the most important thing, followed by resources and then users, because if you don't protect the habitation, there won't be any resources and there won't be anything for the users. CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT asked if there were any questions for Mr. McDowell. There were none. MR. DALE BONDURANT said he owns property along 2000 feet of the Kenai River, which he has put in a conservation easement to protect forever. He said the Kenai is one of the most important resources in the country and we need to protect it. He said he fully supports HB 165. He said he believes in access as well. In 1997, he filed a federal suit to make sure that we had access to all of the rivers in the country. He said it's very important that we continue with this type of thing. He said he would like to see the acreage that was removed in the CS protected as well. CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT asked if there were any questions for Mr. Bondurant. There were none. MR. DON RAMSEY said he was a 35-year resident of Alaska. He said he used the Kenai River to catch fish for his family for the winter. He said he owned 430 feet of frontage on the Kenai River that he has taken very good care of. He said he supports the acquisition of the lands to protect the river because it is a great resource and enjoyed by residents and visitors and has great commercial value. CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT noted that the Future Management section on page 2 of the background information provided by KRMSA said, "Facility development for most of the new land would not be consistent with KRMSA's intent." He said he had been trying to express his concern over this in his previous question about development. He asked if there was anybody else who wished to testify on HB 165. There was nobody. HB 165 was held in committee.