Legislature(2003 - 2004)
02/25/2004 08:37 AM FSH
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HJR 36-MITIGATING GLACIER BAY FISHING CLOSURES Number 0084 CHAIR SEATON announced that the first order of business would be HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. , Requesting the National Park Service to mitigate the adverse economic effects of commercial fishing closures and restrictions in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Number 0125 REPRESENTATIVE BRUCE WEYHRAUCH, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor, explained that HJR 36 requests that the National Park Service (NPS) consider those who've been negatively affected by Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve commercial fishing closures for work that the NPS contracts for. He said in the late 1990s the NPS and other groups persuaded Congress to close portions of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve to commercial fishing and to further restrict other areas where commercial fishing could continue. REPRESENTATIVE WEYHRAUCH referred to a map to illustrate the boundaries of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. He said fishermen had been fishing there for generations, particularly fishermen from Hoonah, because the area is a beautiful place to fish, it is quiet, there aren't a lot of people around, and it is "the perfect Alaska setting." Nearby fisheries include halibut, salmon, and tanner crab; a Dungeness crab fishery is presently closed. REPRESENTATIVE WEYHRAUCH informed members that in conjunction, the NPS implemented a program whereby lifetime fishing permits were given to fishermen who could show recent history of fishing in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. When those fishermen die, commercial fishing there will be phased out. Number 0319 REPRESENTATIVE WEYHRAUCH provided that the federal government appropriated $23 million under a compensation plan to be implemented by the NPS to compensate those who had been negatively impacted by the closures in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. He said boat owners, crewmembers, support businesses, communities, and others that could prove their dependence on commercial fishing were able to request funds from this appropriation. The NPS has already paid out those claims, although some claims are pending because of litigation; however, he said some fishermen who'd applied to lease boats from the NPS for maintenance, research, and transport have had a hard time working with the NPS. Number 0430 REPRESENTATIVE WEYHRAUCH noted that Dan Foley had planned to testify, but was fishing and unable to participate. Representative Weyhrauch said Mr. Foley was negatively affected by the recent changes in commercial fishing in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve and has tried to work with the NPS; he wasn't compensated for his losses and felt the compensation plan didn't adequately fund the broad scope of the total losses by commercial fishermen and the affected businesses. REPRESENTATIVE WEYHRAUCH used Mr. Foley as an example as for his reasoning behind HJR 36, saying he feels the NPS should strongly consider those people directly affected by the recent prohibitions and restrictions in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve when contracting for, purchasing, or leasing vessels, equipment, materials, lodging, and services. Number 0526 CHAIR SEATON, upon determining that no one wished to testify, closed public testimony. REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG inquired what businesses the NPS was currently dealing with, instead of those that were affected by the recent changes. REPRESENTATIVE WEYHRAUCH said he wasn't sure exactly what processes the NPS has to determine who it does business with or how it does business. He added that he doesn't want to propose legislation to force the NPS to consider Alaskan residents or businesses first. He emphasized that HJR 36 asks the NPS to prioritize those businesses and people affected by the recent loss of commercial fishing rights in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve over other options when contracting for, purchasing, or leasing vessels, equipment, materials, lodging, and services. REPRESENTATIVE WEYHRAUCH surmised that the NPS would probably be open to people from all over the world in the procurement of those goods and services, and that it would want to get the "best bang for their buck." He said that with HJR 36 he is asking the legislature to lobby on behalf of those negatively affected [by the recent changes], and is making it more of a formal process whereby those people would be considered first. Number 0679 CHAIR SEATON, referring to page 2, line 19, noted that the resolution called for preference towards those affected, but not a specific preference; he pointed out that the resolution didn't request a percentage of funds or bids. REPRESENTATIVE WEYHRAUCH responded that including a specific request like that would enter a "morass" that he didn't understand nor really want to. He said that, as a policy issue, he feels the legislature can say [to the NPS] the following: We appreciate that there has been payment. But future impacts may not be considered in the compensation program you've implemented. So, please, when you're considering those who may offer services, ... look first at those who have been negatively affected. Can they meet your needs? Give a preference to those by looking at them first and [giving] consideration of their sales and services. And if they can't, go meet your business objectives as a manager. REPRESENTATIVE WEYHRAUCH added that the foregoing is his intent with HJR 36. Number 0807 REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG said he thought HJR 36 was a good resolution; his only concern was how this may displace some businesses and fishermen who'd had the foresight to leave Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve before the closures were enacted. REPRESENTATIVE WEYHRAUCH agreed that people left before the closures; he referred to a man who'd moved to Wrangell and opened up a charter business because he knew Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve would be closing its commercial fishing sites. Representative Weyhrauch said he believes that this man, as well as any other person or business that had been negatively affected by the closures, should receive the same preference that is asked for in HJR 36. Number 0925 CHAIR SEATON commented that the intent of HJR 36 is clear. He reiterated that the resolution was just asking for a preference to be given to those people and vessels that could prove useful to the NPS and that have been affected by the recent closures of commercial fishing sites. REPRESENTATIVE WEYHRAUCH added that he wouldn't deny that waste and inefficiency have occurred within the federal government, and that he felt if the NPS was going to hire people or buy a bunch of gear, it should do so from [the businesses and fishermen that were negatively affected by the closure of commercial fishing sites in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve]. Number 0983 REPRESENTATIVE OGG moved to report HJR 36 out of committee with individual recommendations. REPRESENTATIVE OGG remarked that he supports HJR 36 and thinks it's a good resolution. CHAIR SEATON asked if there was any objection. There being no objection, HJR 36 was reported from the House Special Committee on Fisheries.