Legislature(2015 - 2016)BARNES 124
02/27/2015 01:00 PM House RESOURCES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HJR 7-OPPOSE ALEUTIAN NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY 2:11:29 PM CO-CHAIR TALERICO announced that the final order of business is HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 7, Opposing the proposed designation of an Aleutian Islands National Marine Sanctuary. [Before the committee was CSHJR 7(FSH).] 2:11:52 PM REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER moved to adopt CSHJR 7(FSH) as the working document. There being no objection, CSHJR 7(FSH) was before the committee. 2:12:13 PM TIM CLARK, Staff, Representative Bryce Edgmon, Alaska State Legislature, explained the resolution declares the legislature's opposition to a nomination made by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a group based in Washington, DC, although the group does have some membership in Alaska. The nomination was to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the creation of what would be called the Aleutian Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Since introduction of the original resolution PEER has received a rejection from NOAA. However, because NOAA also invited PEER to revise and perhaps resubmit its nomination, Representative Edgmon, in consultation with many of the communities that are upset about this issue, decided to go forward with the resolution. He said CSHJR 7(FSH) includes acknowledgment of this recent development. MR. CLARK noted that many of the communities located within the proposed sanctuary boundary are in large part upset that they were never consulted by any of the groups that brought forth the nomination to NOAA. The communities are perhaps more upset by the contents of the nomination itself, which would have put an area of 554,000 square nautical miles into a sanctuary. That area is nearly equal to the entire land mass of the state of Alaska. It would have locked in all current restrictions on fishing and other commerce in that whole vast area. Also, it would have sought significant new restrictions that likely would obstruct present and future economic activity. Those additional restrictions are enumerated pretty specifically in PEER's nomination document. 2:15:28 PM MR. CLARK continued, stating the nomination also disregards an extraordinary amount of conscientious and effective environmental stewardship that already exists in the region. More than 227,000 square nautical miles of the Aleutians are already designated critical habitat conservation area. The Aleutians are subject to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council's Aleutian Islands Fishery Ecosystem Plan which brings heightened scientific scrutiny to assess the health of the ecosystem to ensure fisheries sustainability and the well-being of the communities there. Also, the fisheries and ecosystems are rigorously managed under the Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G), the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and Alaska's Board of Fisheries, as well as research and management through the National Marines Fisheries Service. For shipping there is an ongoing Aleutian Islands Risk Assessment, which includes development of the Optimal Response System for towing, salvage, and [spill] response capabilities. Offshore oil and gas development risk is very low following President Obama's December  withdrawal of more than 32 million acres in the North Aleutian Basin from exploration leasing. MR. CLARK reiterated that there was almost no local consultation to Representative Edgmon's knowledge. He said there is no local support for the proposed marine sanctuary that Representative Edgmon is aware of from having talked with many people throughout his district. On the contrary, Representative Edgmon has received either resolutions or official letters [of opposition] from the Aleutians East Borough Assembly, the federally recognized [Agdaagux Tribe] of King Cove, the Akutan Traditional Council, the City of Sand Point, and the City of Adak, among others. The City of Unalaska recently voted to oppose this and any such similar nomination. 2:18:42 PM MR. CLARK, in response to Co-Chair Talerico, reviewed the sectional analysis regarding the changes between HJR 7 and CSHJR 7(FSH). He said the substantive revisions include inserting an additional "whereas" clause on page 3, lines 3-7, which notes NOAA's response to PEER, as well as addition of the phrase "or any similar nomination" in the "resolve on page 3, line 10, in order to address the possibility of the submission of a revised nomination by PEER or other entities. 2:19:37 PM REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER remarked that basically the legislature is sending a very strongly worded letter from the State of Alaska expressing its opinion to decision makers in Washington, DC. He observed that the distribution list for the resolution includes the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, the Under Secretary of Commerce for NOAA, along with Alaska's congressional delegation. He asked whether the sponsor thinks this is a wide enough distribution. MR. CLARK replied that the nominating process in the marine sanctuary program exists in NOAA and the distribution is addressed specifically to the people overseeing the nominations program. He said the sponsor would welcome suggestions from the committee if there are any. REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER suggested the sponsor may want to consider whether the net is cast wide enough. MR. CLARK thanked Representative Hawker. 2:21:32 PM CO-CHAIR TALERICO opened public testimony on HJR 7 and closed it after ascertaining that no one wished to testify. 2:22:12 PM REPRESENTATIVE HERRON brought attention to the map delineating the boundary of the proposed marine sanctuary. He said it is incredulous that the group did not consult any local people, the indigenous people, or the State of Alaska. He noted the proposed boundary completely surrounds Nunivak Island, Kuskokwim Bay, and Bristol Bay, and therefore it is not only the Aleutian Islands. Given that the federal government is to consult with the State of Alaska and Alaska's indigenous groups in its Arctic strategies, he commended the U.S. Department of Commerce for doing this correctly. It is important for the state to always insist on being consulted when decisions are being made so far away from Alaska, he added. REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON said he echoes Representative Herron's comments. Drawing attention to the U.S. Department of Commerce's letter of January 23, 2015, he noted it came 31 days after the submittal. In its letter, he observed, the department highlights the lack of local participation as well as no clarification of support from the federal and state agencies listed as potential management partners. He commended the U.S. Department of Commerce. REPRESENTATIVE SEATON noted that management of the [Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge] would overlay into the proposed sanctuary designation. He said he hasn't heard from anyone that the refuge designation is problematic in any way and he thinks there has been broad general support for the refuge. The visitor center for the refuge is located in Homer and gives a picture of those kinds of ecosystems. He suggested that the sponsor may want to include that overlapping responsibility as the resolution moves along. CO-CHAIR TALERICO related that he had a discussion with the sponsor this afternoon and the sponsor is quite passionate about this. He offered his appreciation to the sponsor for contacting him to explain this issue. 2:26:50 PM REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER moved to report CSHJR 7(FSH) out of committee with individual recommendations [and the accompanying fiscal zero fiscal note]. There being no objection, CSHJR 7(FSH) was reported from the House Resources Standing Committee.