Legislature(2015 - 2016)BARNES 124

03/16/2015 01:00 PM House RESOURCES

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01:01:47 PM Start
01:02:35 PM Confirmation Hearing(s): Department of Natural Resources, Commissioner
01:56:47 PM Confirmation Hearing(s): Alaska Department of Fish & Game, Commissioner
02:34:01 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
<Bill Hearing Canceled>
-- Invited/Public Testimony --
+ Confirmation Hearings: TELECONFERENCED
- Commissioner Mark Myers, Dept. of Natural
- Commissioner Sam Cotten, Dept. of Fish & Game
-- Public Testimony --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
               HOUSE RESOURCES STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                             
                         March 16, 2015                                                                                         
                           1:01 p.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Representative Benjamin Nageak, Co-Chair                                                                                        
Representative David Talerico, Co-Chair                                                                                         
Representative Mike Hawker, Vice Chair                                                                                          
Representative Bob Herron                                                                                                       
Representative Craig Johnson                                                                                                    
Representative Kurt Olson                                                                                                       
Representative Paul Seaton                                                                                                      
Representative Andy Josephson                                                                                                   
Representative Geran Tarr                                                                                                       
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
CONFIRMATION HEARING(S):                                                                                                        
Department Of Natural Resources - Commissioner                                                                                
     Mark Myers - Fairbanks                                                                                                     
     - CONFIRMATION(S) ADVANCED                                                                                                 
Alaska Department Of Fish & Game - Commissioner                                                                               
     Sam Cotten - Juneau                                                                                                        
     - CONFIRMATION(S) ADVANCED                                                                                                 
HOUSE BILL NO. 139                                                                                                              
"An Act  allowing the Alaska Gasline  Development Corporation, or                                                               
a subsidiary of the corporation,  to build, operate, and maintain                                                               
a gas pipeline  within the boundaries of the  Susitna Flats State                                                               
Game Refuge, the Minto Flats  State Game Refuge, the Captain Cook                                                               
State Recreation Area, the Nancy  Lake State Recreation Area, the                                                               
Willow Creek State Recreation Area, and the Denali State Park."                                                                 
     - HEARING CANCELED                                                                                                         
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
No previous action to record                                                                                                    
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
MARK MYERS, PhD, Commissioner-Designee                                                                                          
Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR)                                                                                    
Fairbanks, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified as Commissioner-Designee.                                                                      
SAM COTTEN, Commissioner-Designee                                                                                               
Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G)                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified as Commissioner-Designee.                                                                      
ERNIE WEISS, Director                                                                                                           
Natural Resources Department                                                                                                    
Aleutians East Borough                                                                                                          
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:   Testified in support of  the appointment of                                                             
Commissioner Cotten to the Alaska Department of Fish & Game.                                                                    
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
1:01:47 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  DAVID  TALERICO  called the  House  Resources  Standing                                                             
Committee  meeting   to  order   at  1:01   p.m.  Representatives                                                               
Josephson,  Herron, Seaton,  Tarr, Hawker,  Nageak, and  Talerico                                                               
were present  at the call  to order. Representatives  Johnson and                                                               
Olson arrived as the meeting was in progress.                                                                                   
^CONFIRMATION  HEARING(S):   Department  of   Natural  Resources,                                                               
                    CONFIRMATION HEARING(S):                                                                                
         Department of Natural Resources, Commissioner                                                                      
1:02:35 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  TALERICO announced  that  the first  order of  business                                                               
would be confirmation hearings for  Mark Myers, the Commissioner-                                                               
Designee of the  Department of Natural Resources  and Sam Cotten,                                                               
the Commissioner-Designee of the Department of Fish and Game.                                                                   
1:03:02 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE HAWKER expressed his  endorsement for moving along                                                               
both confirmations to the House floor.                                                                                          
1:03:46 PM                                                                                                                    
MARK  MYERS, PhD,  Commissioner-Designee,  Department of  Natural                                                               
Resources (DNR),  expressed gratitude  for the opportunity  to be                                                               
commissioner.  He  said that he is from Wisconsin  and first came                                                               
to Alaska in  1974 on a geologic field trip  with his university.                                                               
He has several geology degrees  from the University of Wisconsin,                                                               
and started  with working for ARCO  in order to be  in Alaska. He                                                               
spoke of his family, and he  reviewed some of his experience with                                                               
ARCO, including  work in the  Beaufort Sea and the  Kuparuk River                                                               
Unit development.  He noted that he  then earned a PhD  and began                                                               
working  for the  State of  Alaska as  a petroleum  geologist and                                                               
then,  again, went  to work  for the  industry. Later,  he became                                                               
director  of [DNR's  Division of]  Oil &  Gas, and  when he  quit                                                               
after five  years, he  became the director  of the  United States                                                               
Geological Survey (USGS) in Washington  D.C. He said that he then                                                               
worked  two years  as the  AGIA [Alaska  Gasline Inducement  Act]                                                               
coordinator and  was selected  to become  the Vice  Chancellor of                                                               
Research  for the  University of  Alaska. He  stated that  he has                                                               
also served  26 years  in the  Air Force Reserve  as a  pilot and                                                               
intelligence  officer  from  which  he retired  as  a  lieutenant                                                               
colonel. He said he has had  the privilege of looking at resource                                                               
issues from a variety of perspectives  and noted that he has been                                                               
everything from  a technical geologist, a  research scientist, to                                                               
a  developer  of oil  and  gas  fields.    He managed  the  small                                                               
division in  DNR with about  120 people  and the USGS  with 9,000                                                               
people and a  budget of approximately $1.4 billion.  He serves on                                                               
the  National  Petroleum  Council, the  Methane  Hydrate  Federal                                                               
Advisory   Committee,  and   the   Arctic  Council's   Scientific                                                               
Cooperation Taskforce.                                                                                                          
1:10:36 PM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER MYERS said  his philosophy is expressed  in the four                                                               
standards he set for DNR:   1) stewardship, managing resources on                                                               
the  behalf of  the people  of  Alaska and  future residents,  2)                                                               
transparency, being  open as to  why and how decisions  are made,                                                               
3)  science-based management,  including the  use of  traditional                                                               
knowledge  and  western  science,  and  4)  integrity,  which  is                                                               
necessary in  gaining trust.  He noted the  changes in  the world                                                               
oil market  and in the environment,  including isostatic rebound,                                                               
coastal  erosion, and  thermokarsting, and  he said  knowledge of                                                               
these changes will lead to  adaptive strategies "otherwise we are                                                               
paralyzed by uncertainty," he stated.                                                                                           
1:13:13 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  said he appreciates his  past interactions                                                               
with  Commissioner   Myers,  and  asked  about   DNR's  statutory                                                               
mission, its current mission statement.                                                                                         
COMMISSIONER MYERS  stated that DNR's current  mission statement,                                                               
which  is being  reviewed,  is "to  responsibly develop  Alaska's                                                               
resources  and  making them  available  to  the maximum  use  and                                                               
benefit consistent  with the public interest."  Historically, the                                                               
statements have  included terminology to "conserve  and develop."                                                               
The  previous Commissioner,  Dan  Sullivan, had  a less  balanced                                                               
leaning  toward  maximum  use,   he  said,  but  conservation  is                                                               
important as  well in that  there should  be a true  balancing of                                                               
Alaska's  resource needs.  Alaska  is an  economy dependent  upon                                                               
resource development on public lands.  The DNR job is challenging                                                               
because  resources  are the  economic  engine  of the  state,  he                                                               
added.  Other  than  tourism, most  economic  activities  are  on                                                               
Alaska's 160  million acres and  not on federal Alaska  lands. He                                                               
noted  the need  to balance  fish  versus oil,  for example,  and                                                               
expressed  the  importance  of   good  regulatory  structures  to                                                               
preserve  renewable resources  while developing  the nonrenewable                                                               
1:15:45 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON  said   the  legislature  established  the                                                               
department with a  statutory mission statement, and  asked how he                                                               
can create a different mission statement for DNR.                                                                               
COMMISSIONER MYERS  said he  has requested  legal advice  on that                                                               
issue, and  noted that every  commissioner has  slightly modified                                                               
the  mission  statement.  His  goal  is  to  honor  statutes  and                                                               
regulations, and  he will not  make a change without  bringing it                                                               
before  the legislature.  In practice,  DNR  management has  been                                                               
consistent regarding responsibilities,  and the primary variation                                                               
has been in the public process,  he opined. It is imperative that                                                               
Alaska  has  long-term,   sustainable  development  and  provides                                                               
resources for communities  as well. There are  four core services                                                               
that  reflect  what  DNR  does, perhaps  more  than  the  mission                                                               
statement, he  said. Those are to:  foster responsible commercial                                                               
development  and   use  of  state  land   and  natural  resources                                                               
consistent  with the  public interest  for  long-term wealth  and                                                               
employment;  mitigate  the  threat  to the  public  from  natural                                                               
hazards   by   providing   comprehensive  fire   protection   and                                                               
identifying  significant geological  hazards;  provide access  to                                                               
state  lands   for  public  and  private   use,  settlement,  and                                                               
recreation;   and   ensure   sufficient  data   acquisition   and                                                               
assessment of  land and resources to  foster responsible resource                                                               
and community development and public safety, he explained.                                                                      
1:18:51 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  said he  is pleased  that any  changes [to                                                               
the mission statement] will be brought before the legislature.                                                                  
1:19:03 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  HAWKER said  that his  most important  factor for                                                               
legislative conferees  is professional qualifications. It  is not                                                               
relevant  that Representative  Hawker  is in  agreement with  the                                                               
conferees  or  not, he  added,  and  in  his  13 years  with  the                                                               
legislature,  no one  has  had such  a  complete and  appropriate                                                               
resume  as Commissioner  Myers.  "Mr.  Myers qualifications  just                                                               
scream off the  page," he stated. He said that  the management of                                                               
DNR is broader  than just geology, and he  asked how Commissioner                                                               
Myers will approach other issues.                                                                                               
COMMISSIONER MYERS said  he has had a lot of  experience in other                                                               
areas,  for  example,  as  vice chancellor  he  was  involved  in                                                               
research in every  area that DNR is involved  with:  agriculture;                                                               
water,  including sea  ice and  glaciers;  forest monitoring  and                                                               
management;  parks and  preservation;  and environmental  change.                                                               
He added  that the  USGS goes beyond  geology as  well, including                                                               
Landsat satellites and climate change  research, and he advocated                                                               
and  got the  new climate  science centers.  The agency  provided                                                               
much  of the  data the  world uses.  He said  he worked  with the                                                               
Secretary of the  Interior to release the Landsat  data for free,                                                               
and  that  resulted  in  100  percent increase  in  its  use  and                                                               
generates far more revenue in  the private sector than the agency                                                               
spent. He  said he understands the  issues, noting that DNR  is a                                                               
mini version  of the Department  of Interior (DOI),  without fish                                                               
and game, but  with forestry. He added that he  had many valuable                                                               
experiences  and learned  from a  lot of  smart people.  Land use                                                               
management,  economic development,  and  conflict resolution  are                                                               
critical pieces,  and he said  that "often the  minimizing effect                                                               
on resource development is a  single other resource." He gave the                                                               
example  of water  being  the most  limiting  factor on  economic                                                               
development  in  many  places.   Conflict  between  oil  and  gas                                                               
development  and cattle  ranchers  may be  as  strong as  between                                                               
development and  environmentalists, and he  learned to  bring the                                                               
parties together upfront.   Often, the permitting  process is the                                                               
key  to success,  he  said,  and he  noted  the difficulties  are                                                               
increasing  because  of regulatory  factors  and  because of  the                                                               
diverse number of  stakeholders. He said it is  crucial to gather                                                               
basic scientific  data and to  have agency collaboration,  and he                                                               
has considerable experience in those areas.                                                                                     
1:26:08 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  HAWKER surmised  Commissioner Myers  is committed                                                               
to being a science-based manager. [Commissioner Myers agreed.]                                                                  
1:26:30 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE HERRON  noted that  the Department of  Interior is                                                               
trying to "limit us," and  Commissioner Myers will "try to change                                                               
that future."  He asked what DOI  has lost in the  meaning of the                                                               
Arctic  National Wildlife  Refuge  to the  future  of the  United                                                               
States and to Alaska. "What have they ignored?"                                                                                 
COMMISSIONER  MYERS said,  "Quite a  lot." He  noted that  he was                                                               
asked to  explain the resource  potential of the  Arctic National                                                               
Wildlife  Refuge  to  Congress  in 1995.  He  has  observed  that                                                               
Congress never  made the final decision  on the 1002 Area  of the                                                               
refuge. It is only 8 percent  of the refuge, but it is Congress's                                                               
decision  to make,  he explained.  The State  of Alaska  sees the                                                               
resource  potential,  he  added,  and   the  USGS  did  the  last                                                               
professional resource assessment.  "We don't know how  much of it                                                               
is  there,  but  the  numbers suggest  a  significant  amount  of                                                               
hydrocarbons…about 10 billion barrels." It  is a huge amount, and                                                               
the question is  if it can be developed  without significant harm                                                               
to wildlife. He  said he personally believes it can  be done, and                                                               
has  argued that  many times  in his  career. He  added that  the                                                               
value of  wilderness is "a  very different standard." It  is much                                                               
more  subjective  than  measuring  the effects  on  caribou,  for                                                               
example.  It can  be  argued  that a  road  through [the  Izembek                                                               
National  Wildlife   Refuge]  to  King  Cove   will  destroy  the                                                               
wilderness  status, but  one cannot  successfully argue  that the                                                               
road will  significantly affect  the black  brant, he  opined. If                                                               
"wilderness"  means  "don't  touch  it," then  it  clearly  needs                                                               
Congressional approval, he stated.                                                                                              
1:30:05 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  HERRON inquired  as to  his thoughts  on the  new                                                               
term used  by the DOI,  "landscape characteristics,"  rather than                                                               
"wilderness," and if the intent is to confuse people.                                                                           
COMMISSIONER  MYERS said  it  confuses him,  and  as a  scientist                                                               
prefers  specific terms  that everyone  understands  in order  to                                                               
reach  common  resolutions  for any  issue.  New  categorizations                                                               
ought to  be clearly  defined, he opined.  One of  the challenges                                                               
faced by  the state is that  each of the federal  agencies within                                                               
DOI  have   specific  missions   mandated  with   very  different                                                               
purposes; therefore,  land classification matters. The  Bureau of                                                               
Land  Management  (BLM)  is  a multi-use  agency,  the  Fish  and                                                               
Wildlife  Service protects  wildlife, the  Park Service  protects                                                               
the  values of  parks,  and the  Bureau  of Reclamation  provides                                                               
water, manages dams,  and promotes flood safety.  He offered that                                                               
BLM, being more  multiple use, would have  less restrictive terms                                                               
than  the Fish  and  Wildlife  Service, but  "I  think there's  a                                                               
crossover   of  agency   missions  or   a  collapsing   of  those                                                               
standards." He  advised he  already started  a dialogue  with the                                                               
director of  BLM and  the chief  of staff  for the  secretary [of                                                               
DOI], and he challenged them on  some issues.  He further advised                                                               
they  were  amenable  to  resolving  some  of  the  issues  on  a                                                               
professional  level. Rather  than  having an  external fight,  he                                                               
said he wants  to get "inside" because he knows  the agencies and                                                               
knows there  are many good  people in them.  He noted that  he is                                                               
apolitical and  approaches issues as  things to be worked  out in                                                               
an acceptable  way. He  said he is  optimistic because  the first                                                               
conversations went well.                                                                                                        
1:33:22 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE OLSON  said he rarely comments  on nominees unless                                                               
they  are unqualified,  but  Commissioner Myers  was  one of  the                                                               
first persons he  met in Juneau, and he has  known him personally                                                               
and  professionally  and finds  him  to  be very  responsive  and                                                               
accessible.  He  recalled  when Commissioner  Myers  worked  with                                                               
USGS, and  the enthusiasm of  his employees  was "mind-boggling."                                                               
Commissioner  Myers  has a  good  eye  for talent  and  generates                                                               
enthusiasm, he added.                                                                                                           
1:34:54 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR   NAGEAK  thanked   Commissioner  Myers   for  providing                                                               
information,  and  he  agreed  with  earlier  committee  comments                                                               
regarding his  breadth of experience. Regarding  "the place where                                                               
I  was born,"  he  said  Congress makes  a  decision  and not  an                                                               
agency, but "the  agency, in this case, has usurped  the power of                                                               
Congress by quasi-designating  an area as a  wilderness." He said                                                               
he was happy to hear the comments made by Commissioner Myers.                                                                   
1:36:59 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON spoke of two  legal cases in the Supreme                                                               
Court involving  DNR. One was  brought by the tribe  in Nondalton                                                               
about   land   classification   and  public   participation,   he                                                               
explained, and the second decision  was in superior court, and it                                                               
involved the Chuitna River and  watershed. Comments are now being                                                               
taken  regarding the  water rights  application,  he said.  Judge                                                               
Rindner  almost  held the  agency  in  contempt "for  failure  to                                                               
process the  applications and  treat them  as …  a quasi-property                                                               
interest." He asked whether there is  a theme in those cases that                                                               
Commissioner Myers would like to correct.                                                                                       
COMMISSIONER MYERS  answered that  he did not  know the  cases in                                                               
detail, but he is receiving a  lot of public comment on the water                                                               
reservations. He  said DNR recognizes  the need to have  a public                                                               
process on water reservations, and  those rights do exist. "We're                                                               
going  to adjudicate  those  very,  very fairly,"  but  it is  an                                                               
ongoing process. He believes that DNR  has done what was asked by                                                               
the  courts.  He  noted  that  he  was  present  for  the  issues                                                               
surrounding shallow gas leasing and  recognizes the need for that                                                               
program  as  a  source  of rural  energy  while  retaining  other                                                               
values. He said  he believes they reached a  good resolution, but                                                               
it took  a rewrite of  the legislation  because it had  taken out                                                               
the  public process.  There were  a lot  of angry  people in  the                                                               
communities,  including  Homer,  and  it was  "not  so  much  the                                                               
program but  the lack of  public input into the  program." "Don't                                                               
take out  public process,"  he added,  "it's expensive,  it takes                                                               
time, but  it's critical …  for people  to be heard."  In Bristol                                                               
Bay,  for example,  where there  were  lease sales,  Commissioner                                                               
Myers was  the Director of  Oil and  Gas, and the  state provided                                                               
for a  lot of public  input. He said  DNR worked with  the tribal                                                               
organizations  and  the  communities  and asked  them  what  they                                                               
needed to  be protected,  so there was  not much  pushback during                                                               
those  lease sales.  By  bringing in  the  public protection  and                                                               
mitigation issues upfront  and by accepting that  not 100 percent                                                               
of the leases would be leased,  a majority can be leased. That is                                                               
how to  reach the balances  that are accepted by  communities, he                                                               
stated.   He   stressed  the   need   for   public  process   and                                                               
transparency,  which  is  challenging   when  there  are  limited                                                               
resources and time, but they are critical.                                                                                      
1:41:49 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  TARR  said  she  was  pleased  with  Commissioner                                                               
Myer's emphasis on science-based policy.  The governor said he is                                                               
interested  in   additional  collaboration  and  work   with  the                                                               
university,  and  she  said  there  are  many  opportunities  for                                                               
substantive work for  policy development and as  part of training                                                               
state workers in Alaska.                                                                                                        
COMMISSIONER  MYERS  said  that  Alaska needs  to  diversify  its                                                               
economy by  bringing in a  R&D [research and  development] focus.                                                               
Alaska has unique  environments and resources and  has an amazing                                                               
opportunity with  the Arctic to do  [indecipherable] development-                                                               
sensors  for unmanned  vehicles, which  is disruptive  technology                                                               
for  monitoring  the  environment   and  contributing  to  public                                                               
safety, he  stated. The university  is one  of the best  in world                                                               
for  using  small  unmanned  vehicles, and  there  will  soon  be                                                               
partnerships  with  some  of  the   major  companies.  It  is  an                                                               
opportunity  to bring  in  jobs and  industry,  he expressed.  He                                                               
spoke  of   micro-grids  and   generating  power   from  combined                                                               
renewable and  fossil fuel systems  and said the  university test                                                               
lab is  competent in these  areas. He stated that  the university                                                               
has  been  visited  by  the   Secretary  of  the  Navy  and  NATO                                                               
parliamentarians  for  science  and technology,  and  this  shows                                                               
opportunities.  He stressed  the university's  technical capacity                                                               
and  scientific   research  equipment   that  the   state  cannot                                                               
duplicate. He noted that the  university can be funded by sources                                                               
the state  cannot, like the  National Science  Foundation. Alaska                                                               
has a State  Committee on Research, which  identifies the state's                                                               
research  needs  and the  university's  ability  to perform  that                                                               
research.  Training   undergraduates  builds   critical  thinking                                                               
skills, and  they will be  that much more valuable  as employees,                                                               
he  stated.  Alaska  needs  people   with  doctorate  degrees  to                                                               
understand arctic  issues. The university  produces about  50 per                                                               
year, and they will be future leaders.                                                                                          
1:47:13 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON asked whether it  is within the power of                                                               
the commissioner to make changes to mission statements.                                                                         
COMMISSIONER MYERS  said he  has asked for  a legal  opinion, but                                                               
there is a belief that  it would require legislative approval and                                                               
he  would  get that  approval.  He  noted that  Commissioner  Dan                                                               
Sullivan's  mission  statement  exists  without  having  received                                                               
legislative consent.                                                                                                            
1:48:08 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  TARR noted  that the  transition team  encouraged                                                               
developing formal  training for  conducting public  hearings. She                                                               
said that would be beneficial.                                                                                                  
COMMISSIONER  MYERS  concurred.  It   is  not  just  facilitation                                                               
skills,  it is  understanding how  adaptive management  works and                                                               
finding  a  method  that  works for  the  state.  The  university                                                               
teaches some of the fundamentals of  it, and it is important that                                                               
people are trained to the standards that the state really needs.                                                                
1:50:04 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  JOSEPHSON said  there  was a  discussion about  a                                                               
decade   ago   regarding  DNR   usurping   some   of  the   roles                                                               
traditionally  played by  the Alaska  Department of  Fish &  Game                                                               
(ADF&G).   He  asked   what  happened,   and   asked  about   the                                                               
relationship between the two agencies.                                                                                          
COMMISSIONER  MYERS recalled  that  the Division  of Habitat  was                                                               
moved from  ADF&G to  DNR by then  Governor Frank  Murkowski. The                                                               
relationship  works  well depending  on  the  personality of  the                                                               
directors and  their willingness to elevate  decisions, he added.                                                               
It  can work  fine as  long the  division maintains  core habitat                                                               
values,  but  there was  never  trust  in  that decision  by  the                                                               
wildlife  community.  The  best  answer   is  to  have  a  strong                                                               
collaboration between the  agencies at the director  level and to                                                               
implement  science-based management.  He noted  that when  he was                                                               
the director of  Oil and Gas, he was frustrated  at times because                                                               
the  Habitat  Division  was  not  using  enough  science  in  its                                                               
decisions, "and I  challenged them on it." He said  it should not                                                               
come to  that; there  should be  good data  to make  good habitat                                                               
CO-CHAIR  TALERICO noted  his previous  military experience,  and                                                               
said it was quite a  commitment. He then opened public testimony.                                                               
Upon  determining no  one  wished to  testify,  he closed  public                                                               
1:53:50 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON moved  to forward the name  of Mark Myers,                                                               
Commissioner-Designee, to  the full body  for consideration.   He                                                               
reminded members that signing  the reports regarding appointments                                                               
to  boards  and commissions  in  no  way reflects  each  member's                                                               
approval  or   disapproval  of  the   appointees  and   that  the                                                               
nominations  are merely  forwarded  to the  full legislature  for                                                               
confirmation or rejection. [The motion was adopted.]                                                                            
The committee took an at-ease from 1:54 p.m. to 1:56 p.m.                                                                       
^CONFIRMATION  HEARING(S):  Alaska  Department of  Fish  &  Game,                                                               
         Alaska Department of Fish & Game, Commissioner                                                                     
1:56:47 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  TALERICO announced  that  the final  order of  business                                                               
would   be   a  confirmation   hearing   for   Sam  Cotten,   the                                                               
Commissioner-designee  of the  Department  of Fish  and Game.  He                                                               
noted that Commissioner Cotten has served as a legislator.                                                                      
1:57:17 PM                                                                                                                    
SAM COTTEN,  Commissioner-Designee, Alaska  Department of  Fish &                                                               
Game  (ADF&G),  told  the  committee   that  he  was  a  freshman                                                               
legislator 40 years ago and served  14 years in the House and two                                                               
in the Senate. He  said he was born in Juneau  but grew up mostly                                                               
in Palmer and  Eagle River. He did two military  tours in Vietnam                                                               
after high  school. He enjoys  sport fishing,  and he has  been a                                                               
purse seiner in Cook Inlet for  about 25 years. He said he worked                                                               
for several  years for the  Aleutians East Borough as  a resource                                                               
analyst, working on oil and gas  leases and on special area plans                                                               
such as  critical habitat  plans. He  noted that  the legislature                                                               
creates critical  habitat areas  and the  agency puts  together a                                                               
management plan. There was a  lot of public participation, and it                                                               
gave him a feel for how  important the public process is. He said                                                               
the  state would  fully involve  the public  with any  changes to                                                               
such management plans.                                                                                                          
COMMISSIONER COTTEN said he primarily  worked on fisheries issues                                                               
when  working for  the Aleutians  East  Borough. The  area has  a                                                               
mixed-stock fishery and is strategically  located near the end of                                                               
the Alaska Peninsula.  It is the "Area M" fishery  and often gets                                                               
blamed when  other fisheries  were not doing  too well,  he said.                                                               
This allowed him  to get familiar with many  other fishery areas.                                                               
He  was  appointed  to  the   North  Pacific  Fishery  Management                                                               
Council,  and   he  will  now   serve  on  the  council   as  the                                                               
commissioner.  There are  many opportunities  to protect  Alaskan                                                               
fishing  communities, but  it is  a never-ending  battle in  some                                                               
cases,  he  explained. The  Seattle  fleets  are referred  to  as                                                               
distant  water fleets,  and  they  have fished  in  Alaska for  a                                                               
century or  more. The majority  of fish caught between  three and                                                               
200  miles are  caught by  non-Alaskans, but  the fish  are often                                                               
landed, processed,  or transferred within  the state. He  said he                                                               
believes that  the fishing  industry is  the largest  employer in                                                               
Alaska. He  commented on  the level  of professionalism  in ADF&G                                                               
and the  commitment to do the  work. Many Alaskans depend  on the                                                               
department  to get  access to  fish and  game resources.  He said                                                               
working with the federal government  presents challenges as those                                                               
agencies  have  different  mission  statements  than  ADF&G.  The                                                               
polarization,  he said,  he  would like  to  improve with  better                                                               
communication, working in communities, and outreach.                                                                            
2:06:01 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON noted that  the transition team spoke to                                                               
a "fish-first"  policy, and he  asked what  that meant and  if he                                                               
subscribed to it.                                                                                                               
COMMISSIONER  COTTEN said  that  refers to  the sustained  yield,                                                               
scientific  approach.  He  said  harvest will  be  allowed  on  a                                                               
continuous  basis,   recognizing  that   the  fish   come  first.                                                               
Sustained yield is a constitutional mandate, he added.                                                                          
2:06:56 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  HERRON  noted  that Commissioner  Cotten  chaired                                                               
this  same   committee  many  years   ago,  and  asked   how  the                                                               
legislature has changed its approach to fish and game.                                                                          
COMMISSIONER COTTEN said  there is always a lot  of passion about                                                               
fish and game issues, but he  has seen a large change in Alaska's                                                               
demographics.  When  he was  on  the  committee there  were  more                                                               
legislators  representing fishing  communities, so  there may  be                                                               
more challenges  on understanding  the importance  of sustainable                                                               
fishing communities.  The population  in Southcentral  Alaska has                                                               
increased  demands on  salmon resources  in Cook  Inlet, but  the                                                               
department has recognized that subsistence  use is a priority and                                                               
personal use is growing in popularity, he stated.                                                                               
2:09:02 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE TARR said the transition  report states that there                                                               
should  be   no  significant  loss  of   fish  habitat  knowingly                                                               
permitted in the state. She asked how that can be accomplished.                                                                 
COMMISSIONER COTTEN  said there  are a  couple of  habitat issues                                                               
now  surfacing,  including the  Chuitna  coal  mine. One  of  his                                                               
primary jobs  is to protect fish,  but there is a  need to remain                                                               
objective,  and when  "people  come  in and  apply  for Title  16                                                               
permits, we  can't have our minds  made up in advance."  He noted                                                               
that he comes  from a mining family,  so he sees a  little bit of                                                               
romance in mining, but he  expressed concern on taking chances on                                                               
Alaska's fishery habitat.                                                                                                       
2:10:46 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  NAGEAK  said  Commissioner  Cotten  received  the                                                               
legislative   conservation  award   in  1988   by  the   Wildlife                                                               
Federation of Alaska,  and the Alaska Outdoor Council  gave him a                                                               
recognition  award  in  the  same  year,  "and  that's  quite  an                                                               
2:11:29 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE OLSON asked about traditional knowledge.                                                                         
COMMISSIONER COTTEN answered  that science has to  be the primary                                                               
driver, "but if  we ignore traditional knowledge,  we're making a                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE OLSON said  he has only seen  it used successfully                                                               
at  the  Red Dog  Mine.  The  elders  were consulted  on  caribou                                                               
passages, he explained.                                                                                                         
2:12:37 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON  said  that the  North  Pacific  Fisheries                                                               
Management Council manages  the federal waters from  three to 200                                                               
[miles  from shore].  There was  a problem  in the  1990s with  a                                                               
trawl fishery  killing more  value in crab  and halibut  than was                                                               
being harvested in  the United States. At that  time, the council                                                               
allowed a  fishery if  it had  any economic  value, and  he asked                                                               
what  Commissioner Cotten  thought about  net loss  fisheries and                                                               
bycatch issues.                                                                                                                 
COMMISSIONER COTTEN said there are  10 national standards used by                                                               
the council,  and the first  is to  allow for optimum  yield, but                                                               
another  is  to  reduce  bycatch  as  much  as  practicable.  For                                                               
example, there is  a bycatch limit in the Bering  Sea and a limit                                                               
to  overall halibut  removals, so  when the  bycatch equaled  the                                                               
overall halibut  limit, the  people of  the Pribilof  Islands and                                                               
anyone else fishing  in Alaska could not fish for  halibut in the                                                               
Bering  Sea. "We  took action  and petitioned  the Secretary  for                                                               
emergency response and visited the  Halibut Commission and pretty                                                               
aggressively chased  after that,"  and in  the June  2015 meeting                                                               
there will  be final action  to significantly reduce  bycatch for                                                               
those trawl fisheries, he stated.                                                                                               
2:15:26 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON  said  he   is  working  with  the  Alaska                                                               
delegation  to clarify  that [the  council] is  not obligated  to                                                               
conduct a fishery  that is destroying [too many fish],  and he is                                                               
glad that  Commissioner Cotten  is looking  at it.  The fishermen                                                               
should be told  that if they are operating  "in those conditions"                                                               
they  risk losing  access to  the  fisheries. He  noted that  the                                                               
state has  reviewed the king  salmon problem and  the sustainable                                                               
salmon initiative,  and Representative  Seaton has  attended many                                                               
meetings  regarding the  Yukon-Kuskokwim [fisheries].  There were                                                               
seven different  theories on what  might be happening,  and those                                                               
theories were  to be tested,  he said. He expressed  concern that                                                               
ADF&G has looked at Cook Inlet  and is doing a gap analysis, "not                                                               
testing any  theories … and  we never eliminate  anything because                                                               
all  we're  doing  is  gaining  information."  He  asked  if  the                                                               
department  will   be  testing  scientific  theories   or  merely                                                               
collecting information.                                                                                                         
COMMISSIONER  COTTEN said  there  is funding  available from  the                                                               
legislature for Chinook  salmon research, and it  is an extremely                                                               
high priority  for the  department to  conduct that  research and                                                               
"learn  what we  can."  In  the Bering  Sea,  the Chinook  salmon                                                               
bycatch are primarily Alaska fish, and  in the Gulf of Alaska, 95                                                               
percent of  the bycatch  are from  Southeast Alaska,  Canada, and                                                               
Washington. It  appears that, for  some reason in  Alaska waters,                                                               
the  marine  survival of  juveniles  are  suffering. He  supports                                                               
directing attention  to that,  but the  best scientists  point at                                                               
ocean  conditions,  "and that  means  a  whole lot  of  different                                                               
2:19:02 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON  said  that  research by  the  Bering  Sea                                                               
sustainable salmon  initiative tested seven theories  that may be                                                               
impacting  king  salmon  by  going out  with  RFPs  [request  for                                                               
proposals] to collect  data to prove or  disprove those theories,                                                               
yet ADF&G's gap analysis for  Cook Inlet merely sought to collect                                                               
information without proving  or disproving a theory,  so there is                                                               
no way  to move  on. "So,  I hope,  as commissioner,  you'll make                                                               
sure that the people when  they're doing and spending the dollars                                                               
that we  allocate are actually  doing science and  either looking                                                               
at proving or  disproving a theory instead of  just saying 'we're                                                               
going  to  collect  some  information.'"  He  added  that  it  is                                                               
difficult to  support research when it  generates information but                                                               
does not come out with any answers.                                                                                             
2:21:01 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  TARR  asked  about  the  reauthorization  of  the                                                               
Magnuson-Stevens  Act  in  terms of  management  of  personal-use                                                               
[fisheries]  now  that Senator  Begich  is  not in  Congress  and                                                               
Representative  Young  might  take   the  lead.  She  asked  what                                                               
Commissioner Cotten's role will be.                                                                                             
COMMISSIONER COTTEN  said he is  watching it closely, and  he has                                                               
seen  the  most recent  proposal  that  Representative Young  has                                                               
advanced. It  is not  much different  from what  has been  on the                                                               
table  before,  but it  speaks  to  recreational and  subsistence                                                               
representation  [on   the  North  Pacific   Fisheries  Management                                                               
Council].  There  are  no  designated seats,  he  said,  but  the                                                               
wording encourages participation by a variety of user groups.                                                                   
2:22:35 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  JOSEPHSON requested  an explanation  of the  give                                                               
and  take and  mutual respect  expected between  federal wildlife                                                               
policy  prohibiting   intensive  game  management   and  Alaska's                                                               
COMMISSIONER COTTEN  noted the  difference between  national park                                                               
policy  on  intensive  management   and  Alaska  statutes,  which                                                               
require it. Alaska's  goal is to reduce predators  to the benefit                                                               
of  consumptive  users.  He  said  his concern  is  the  lack  of                                                               
understanding  of that  goal by  those  at the  park service  who                                                               
called it "game  farming."  He reiterated that the  Board of Game                                                               
is  statutorily required  to do  intensive management,  which may                                                               
include habitat manipulation such as controlled burns.                                                                          
2:25:02 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON said there are  "a lot of practices that                                                               
are  permitted,  primarily over  the  past  20 years,  that  were                                                               
unknown to Alaska in the 70s  and 80s," and he asked whether that                                                               
shows a shift  in Alaska culture or just  that Alaska populations                                                               
have grown  and require more  prey. There  is a divide  caused by                                                               
the intensive management law, he noted.                                                                                         
COMMISSIONER  COTTEN suggested  he was  referring to  baiting and                                                               
snaring  brown  bears,  which  the UFWS  and  the  National  Park                                                               
Service do  not allow. He noted  that brown bear baiting  has not                                                               
been  effective for  predator control.  There are  more efficient                                                               
techniques, he added. The practice  of crawling into dens to kill                                                               
bears is probably not occurring very often, he added.                                                                           
2:27:19 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  TARR asked  if Alaska's  recent warm  winter will                                                               
require different management decisions or responses.                                                                            
COMMISSIONER COTTEN said there may  be lower water levels, but he                                                               
is  not sure  what  he would  do  about that.  He  said the  fire                                                               
potential will need state involvement.                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE TARR  said people have suggested  that hibernating                                                               
animals may emerge early and find a lack of plant availability.                                                                 
COMMISSIONER  COTTEN said  he could  not answer  that, but  there                                                               
have been other weather factors  affecting multiple species, like                                                               
ice covering sheep feeding areas.                                                                                               
2:29:22 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR TALERICO opened public testimony.                                                                                      
ERNIE  WEISS, Director,  Natural Resources  Department, Aleutians                                                               
East  Borough, urged  the  confirmation  of Commissioner  Cotten.                                                               
Commissioner  Cotten has  a long  history of  public service  and                                                               
leadership in  Alaska, and he  has the breadth of  experience and                                                               
the knowledge  to lead the ADF&G.  He said he has  worked closely                                                               
with him, and he has been a mentor and a good friend.                                                                           
CO-CHAIR TALERICO closed public testimony.                                                                                      
2:31:34 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON moved  to forward the name  of Sam Cotten,                                                               
Commissioner-Designee, Alaska  Department of Fish &  Game, to the                                                               
joint session  for consideration,  without reflecting  the intent                                                               
by any  member to  vote either for  or against  his confirmation.                                                               
[There being no objection, the motion was adopted.]                                                                             
The committee took an at-ease from 2:32 p.m. to 2:34 p.m.                                                                       
2:34:01 PM                                                                                                                    
There being no  further business before the  committee, the House                                                               
Resources Standing Committee meeting was adjourned at 2:34 p.m.