Legislature(2003 - 2004)

05/15/2003 08:45 AM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
     CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 210(RES)(efd fld S)                                                                                  
     "An Act relating to the Chitina dip net fishery."                                                                          
This  was the first  hearing  for this  bill in  the Senate  Finance                                                            
Co-Chair Wilken  stated this bill,  "eliminates the $25 fee  for the                                                            
Chitina  dip net  fishing  permit  and requires  State  agencies  to                                                            
publicize  and mark  the  State land  that  provides  access to  the                                                            
RYNNIEVA MOSS, Staff to  Representative John Coghill, Jr., presented                                                            
the bill.                                                                                                                       
SFC 03 # 100, Side A 10:21 AM                                                                                                   
Ms. Moss continued that  this legislation addresses an equity issue,                                                            
explaining that  the Chitina dip net fishery is the  only fishery in                                                            
the State that assesses  a fee to participants. She noted the intent                                                            
of  the $25  fee  was  valid,  as it  compensated  the  two  private                                                            
property owners upon whose land was trespassed.                                                                                 
Ms. Moss reminded that  through the efforts of former Representative                                                            
John Davies and  former Senator Pete Kelly, funds  were appropriated                                                            
to survey the access to  the Chitina fishery. With the completion of                                                            
the survey,  she shared  that it  has been determined  that  over 60                                                            
percent  of access  to the  river is  public access  on State-owned                                                             
Co-Chair  Wilken  directed  the witness  to  identify  the areas  in                                                            
question on a map she possessed [copy on file].                                                                                 
Senator Bunde  asked if the participants would still  be required to                                                            
hold a sport-fishing license.                                                                                                   
Ms.  Moss replied  that  licenses  were not  required  in the  past,                                                            
although the Alaska Board  of Fisheries determined the fishery to be                                                            
personal   use   rather  than   subsistence,   and   licenses   were                                                            
subsequently required.                                                                                                          
Ms. Moss detailed the map  showing a section of the Copper River and                                                            
the areas of the dip net  fishery, in conjunction with the land that                                                            
is privately or publicly owned.                                                                                                 
Ms. Moss  clarified that  although the fee  would not be imposed,  a                                                            
permit would still  be necessary to participate in  the fishery. She                                                            
stated  this  is  to ensure  that  all  who  participate  receive  a                                                            
brochure  indicating   public  assess.   She  informed  that   funds                                                            
remaining from  the survey project would be utilized  to produce the                                                            
brochure  as well as  a "large  public sign"  indicating the  public                                                            
assess to the river.                                                                                                            
Ms. Moss qualified  that conflicts would continue,  as occur in many                                                            
other areas  of the  State where  people might  trespass on  private                                                            
land. She admitted  the local residents would be impacted;  however,                                                            
they  should  "take  advantage"  of  the  situation   and  undertake                                                            
economic  development.  She suggested  boat ramps,  campgrounds  and                                                            
other establishments to accommodate the fishers.                                                                                
Senator Taylor  asked if this legislation is identical  to a bill he                                                            
sponsored the previous legislative session.                                                                                     
Ms. Moss affirmed and reminded  that the original legislation passed                                                            
the  Senate but  did  not complete  the  House  of Representatives'                                                             
process before adjournment.                                                                                                     
Ms. Moss  reminded the  original legislation  contained a  provision                                                            
that would have retained  the $25 fee for one year and that Co-Chair                                                            
Wilken  testified,  "the  intent  of  the  fishery  is  to  have  an                                                            
accessible, productive  State fishery". She recalled Co-Chair Wilken                                                            
supported  the collection of  fees for one  year with the  knowledge                                                            
that an agreement would  be reached between the State and the Native                                                            
corporations that owned portions of the land.                                                                                   
Senator  Taylor asked  about  the issue  of adverse  possession.  He                                                            
understood  that   over  time  "prescriptive  easements"   could  be                                                            
acquired  to  allow  public  assess,   due  to  the  utilization  of                                                            
privately owned  land for several  years. He spoke to other  pending                                                            
legislation  that would eliminate  "any opportunity  to gain  any of                                                            
those access  rights across  that private  land". He cautioned  that                                                            
this  private  land would  never  become  accessible to  the  public                                                            
except through a licensing fee if the other legislation passes.                                                                 
Senator Hoffman asked the  ownership of the land nearest the parking                                                            
area indicated on the map.                                                                                                      
Ms. Moss responded  that Chitina and  Ahtna Native corporations  own                                                            
most of the private land in the area.                                                                                           
Senator Hoffman  asked if most participants in this  fishery utilize                                                            
this parking area.                                                                                                              
Ms. Moss replied  that "pavilion area" is used for  parking, as well                                                            
as a private campground at O'Brien Creek.                                                                                       
Senator Hoffman asked how the fees were utilized.                                                                               
Ms. Moss detailed  that $18 of the  fee [likely $8] was paid  to the                                                            
Native corporations  to compensate for trespassing;  $12 was used to                                                            
maintain portable  toilets and dumpsters;  and $2 remained  with the                                                            
Department of Fish and Game to administer the fee program.                                                                      
JESSE  VANDERZANDEN,  Executive Director,  Alaska  Outdoor  Council,                                                            
testified this bill is  one of the top priorities of the Council for                                                            
the  current  legislative  session.  He told  of  the approximately                                                             
12,000  collective  membership  of  hunters,  fishers  and  trappers                                                            
represented by  the Council, many of whom, he stated  participate in                                                            
the  Chitina dip  net  fishery. He  furthered  that  the Council  is                                                            
comprised of approximately  50 outdoor activities-related clubs, one                                                            
being the Chitina Dipnetters Association.                                                                                       
Mr. VanderZanden  characterized  this legislation  as a "well-timed                                                             
housekeeping proposal".  He pointed out that the survey of the lands                                                            
around  the Chitina  River was  completed  in the  Summer 2001,  and                                                            
conclusively  showed that at least  60 percent of the area  utilized                                                            
by the  dip netters  is public  land.  In addition,  he said  public                                                            
corridors  were identified  that would allow  dip netters access  to                                                            
fishing sites  without crossing private land. He remarked  that as a                                                            
result of this  recently identified  public access, the initial  $25                                                            
fee  instituted  by the  Legislature  in  the  year 2000  to  secure                                                            
trespass rights  across the private  lands, is no longer  necessary.                                                            
Mr. VanderZanden  read portions of a letter from then  Governor Tony                                                            
Knowles to the  Chitina Native Corporation dated April  25, 2002, as                                                            
     …Last summer,  DOT&PF [Department of Transportation  and Public                                                            
     Facilities]  staff completed this legislatively  funded survey,                                                            
     which  held  that at  least 60  percent  of the  length of  the                                                            
     right-of-way  between  O'Brien Creek  and  Haley Creek  affords                                                            
     legal  public access to the Copper  River… The results  of this                                                            
     survey places  the State in the awkward position  of collecting                                                            
     fees from  a personal users in the Chitina Subsistence  Fishery                                                            
     to pay  for access that is not  needed in order to participate                                                             
     in  the  fishery…  ADF&G  [Department  of  Fish  and  Game]  is                                                            
     considering a proposal that would repeal the access fee.                                                                   
Mr. VanderZanden next read  from an August 25, 2002 letter from then                                                            
Department of  Natural Resources Commissioner Pat  Pourchot and then                                                            
Department of Fish and  Game Commissioner Frank Rue addressed to the                                                            
Ahtna Native Corporation as follows.                                                                                            
     …The  current   year-to-year  compensation   process  has  been                                                            
     difficult  for  all  parties  and given  information  from  the                                                            
     survey  and other  developments,  we  do not  believe that  the                                                            
     current arrangement  is sustainable… A bill seeking a repeal of                                                            
     the  fee passed  the Senate  18 to  one and  would likely  have                                                            
     passed  the House as  well if it had  not been so close  to the                                                            
     end of the session.                                                                                                        
Mr.   VanderZanden   furthered    that   this   bill   addresses   a                                                            
public/private  lands  issue  that  would resolve  issues  for  both                                                            
private landowners  and fishers.  He pointed  out that public  lands                                                            
have already  been posted in the Chitina  corridor, specifically  to                                                            
Haley Creek.  He understood  that adequate  funds remained  from the                                                            
survey   project  to  produce   and  widely   distribute   brochures                                                            
delineating public and private lands.                                                                                           
Mr. VanderZanden  surmised  that by delineating  these public  lands                                                            
would reduce  the impact  to private lands  caused by trespass,  and                                                            
also allow  private  landowners to  charge a fee  for access  across                                                            
their  land. He  noted this  currently  occurs in  nearby  fisheries                                                            
under similar  circumstances. He asserted  that because private  and                                                            
public  lands  had not  been  identified  and  posted in  the  past,                                                            
fishers  were  unable to  discern  trespass  on private  land,  thus                                                            
necessitating  the  trespass fee  to allow  access  for all  fishery                                                            
participants.  He remarked  that  proper identification  of  private                                                            
land  would  allow   landowners  to  prosecuting  for   knowing  and                                                            
egregious trespass, were it to occur.                                                                                           
Mr. VanderZanden stated  this bill would "get the Department of Fish                                                            
and Game out of  the waste and trash removal business."  He asserted                                                            
that the time  spent on contracting for these services  was valuable                                                            
and  could  have better  been  spent  on managing  the  fishery.  He                                                            
admitted  this bill  does not address  the matter  of funding  these                                                            
services,  however,  he  stressed  it should  be  discussed  in  the                                                            
"regulatory  arena" rather than the  "statutory arena," as  no other                                                            
fishery or access matter contains statutorily mandated fee.                                                                     
BYRON HALEY,  President, Chitina Dipnetters  Association,  testified                                                            
via teleconference  from  Fairbanks,  in support  of passage of  the                                                            
bill. He stressed there  is no need to charge one group of people to                                                            
use  public  lands  to  access  the  Copper  River.  He  noted  that                                                            
participants  must purchase a sport-fishing  license. He  reiterated                                                            
earlier testimony  regarding the survey's findings  of 60 percent of                                                            
the land in  the fishery area is publicly  owned. He gave  a history                                                            
of the fee,  which initially was ten  dollars but was raised  at the                                                            
request of the affected Native Corporations.                                                                                    
PAUL  HOLLAND,   Board  Member,  Chitina   Dipnetters  Association,                                                             
testified  on his own behalf  via teleconference  from Fairbanks  in                                                            
support  of the legislation.  He  described the  seven-mile area  in                                                            
which the  fishery occurs,  referencing the  aforementioned  map. He                                                            
surmised  that approximately  90 percent of  the dip netters  access                                                            
the fishery through public land.                                                                                                
MARK  HEM,  Owner, Chitina  One-Stop  grocery  store,  Hem  Charters                                                            
guided dip net fishing,  a café, and private property in the Chitina                                                            
area, and Vice President,  Chitina Dipnetters Association, testified                                                            
via teleconference  from Fairbanks about his business  operations in                                                            
the Chitna  area. He shared  that he has had  his land surveyed  and                                                            
developed to  lessen trespass on his  property. He stressed  that if                                                            
the State continues collecting  fees from a user group for potential                                                            
trespass on private property,  he should receive payment as well. He                                                            
opined the fee  collection sets a "bad precedent"  for the State and                                                            
he urged passage of this bill.                                                                                                  
Senator Hoffman  noted a portion of  the fees was expended  on waste                                                            
removal and  similar services. He  asked as a resident of  the area,                                                            
if the witness  was concerned with  the trash of 8,000 visitors  not                                                            
being removed.                                                                                                                  
Mr. Hem  was concerned  but  emphasized  that the  matter should  be                                                            
addressed   differently.   He  characterized   the  fee   collection                                                            
primarily addresses trespass on private property.                                                                               
Senator Hoffman commented  that the $40,000 expense of waste removal                                                            
has not been otherwise addressed.                                                                                               
Ms. Moss  injected that  the House Finance  Committee discussed  the                                                            
expense of  waste removal and that  the co-chairs of that  Committee                                                            
committed to finding  a solution.  She stated that  waste removal is                                                            
undertaken in  relation to other fisheries and that  the Chitina dip                                                            
net fishery should be treated equally.                                                                                          
Senator Taylor clarified  that the Alaska Board of Fisheries changed                                                            
the definition  of the fishery from subsistence to  sport and that a                                                            
sport fishing license would be required to participate.                                                                         
Ms. Moss corrected  the classification was changed  from subsistence                                                            
to personal use.                                                                                                                
Senator Taylor  surmised that subsistence  is personal use  and that                                                            
if  the  fishery  was  classified  as  subsistence  no  resident  of                                                            
Fairbanks could participate.                                                                                                    
Ms. Moss  was unfamiliar  with the  details of  the Alaska Board  of                                                            
Fisheries decisions.                                                                                                            
Senator Taylor  offered a motion to  report the bill from  Committee                                                            
with individual recommendations and accompanying fiscal notes.                                                                  
Without objection  CS HB  210 (RES) MOVED  from Committee with  zero                                                            
fiscal  note  #1  from  the  Department  of  Natural  Resources  and                                                            
($172,800) fiscal note #3 from the Department of Fish and Game.                                                                 

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