Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Alaska’s House Bill 199 a Work in Progress

Alaska’s House Special Committee on Fisheries continues to hear testimony on House Bill 199, legislation aimed at protecting fish and game habitat through permitting of anadromous fish habitat.

In a report to her constituents this week committee chair Louise Stutes of Kodiak, Alaska, remarked that out of 111 people who testified, only 12 opposed the bill in its present form. “What we heard was overwhelming support for updating Title 16 (of Alaska statutes) so that Alaska can maintain healthy salmon fisheries into the future as urbanization and development continue to increase,” Stutes said. “There is a lot of work still needed to make sure we get the right protections in place that still allow responsible development to move forward.”

According to Stutes it is unlikely that HB 199, which would update statutes for protecting fish habitat for the first time since statehood, will make it through the process this year. If it doesn’t pass, her committee will continue to make it a better product during the interim and hit the ground running next year to get it into law. Meanwhile an initiative also aimed at protecting fish habitat, currently scheduled to go on the primary ballot on August 21, would be postponed until the November 6 general election ballot unless the legislative session ends on April 22. State law requires at least 120 days from the end of the legislative session and an initiative vote.

The US Army Corps of Engineers meanwhile continues to hold public hearings on the Pebble mine permit application. Since April 9 hearings have been held in several western and Southcentral Alaska communities, including Naknek, Homer and Dillingham. The Anchorage hearing is set for the evening of Thursday, April 19, at the Dena’ina Center. The doors open at 11 a.m. for those wishing to give testimony to a court reporter, with the main event taking place from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Mine opponents plan a demonstration with speakers at 5 p.m.

Public radio station KDLG in Dillingham reported that those testifying this past week at Kokhanok expressed apprehension or outright opposition to the Pebble project mining plan, while at Newhalen public testimony showed a mix of support and opposition to the mine.

The comment period continues through June 29.

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