Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/18/1996 03:35 PM RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
       SB 215 OMNIBUS STATE AGENCY OPERATONS & PROGRAM                       
  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  brought SB 215 before the committee as the next              
 order of business.  He stated the committee would be dealing with             
 only Sections 1 - 4 and Sections 9 and 10 of the bill.                        
    GERON BRUCE , Legislative Liaison, Department of Fish and Game,            
 addressing Section 1 - 4, said there are basically two provisions             
 in those sections that this legislation accomplishes.  Section one            
 provides the Department of Fish and Game with authority to award              
 grants for protecting, maintaining, improving, or extending fish,             
 game, or aquatic plant resources of the state.                                
  TAPE 96-31, SIDE B                                                           
 Number 001                                                                    
 Sections 2, 3 and 4 deal with the streamlining of vendor                      
 compensation for the sale of recreational hunting and fishing                 
 licenses and crew member licenses.  The vendors receive some                  
 compensation which is intended to defray the costs of the service             
 they provide.  Right now, the vendors receive the compensation in             
 a two-stage process:  (1) they get to retain five percent up front;           
 and (2) they receive payment for additional compensation later.  He           
 said the legislation will allow the vendors to retain the total               
 value of the compensation at the same time rather than it being a             
 two-step process.                                                             
 Number 015                                                                    
  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  asked if the $50 per year threshold was to entice            
 vendors to offer the service.   MR. BRUCE  answered that it has been          
 there for a long time, and he doesn't recollect the original cause            
 for setting it there, but he thought it was intended to provide at            
 least a minimum level of compensation for people that were doing              
 this as a service.                                                            
 Number 030                                                                    
  SENATOR PEARCE , in referring to Section 1, said she thought the             
 legislation was giving extremely broad authority, and she asked               
 what can't the department do now that they want to be able to do              
 through this legislation.   MR. BRUCE  explained that the department          
 would like to be able to participate in partnerships with private             
 land owners, particularly along the Kenai River where they are                
 interested in improving the river front edge of their property in             
 a manner that is habitat friendly for fish.  The department cannot            
 currently, other than through a competitive bid process, get money            
 to a private land owner.  They have been going through a federal              
 agency, which has that authority, and they have been passing the              
 money through to a local property owner based on a set of criteria            
 that the property owner must meet in order to receive the money.              
 It is a 50/50 match with 50 percent of the funding coming from the            
 state and the land owner providing the other 50 percent.  The                 
 funding the department is currently using to do these kinds of                
 projects comes from two sources:  (1) criminal settlement monies              
 relating to the Exxon Valdez disaster; and (2) money from the                 
 National Marine Fisheries Service.  The department has allocated a            
 portion of those monies to go toward these kind of projects.                  
  SENATOR PEARCE  said as she recalls, the legislature already gave            
 the department specific authority to pass those monies to local               
 governments and it could then be granted to private citizens.   MR.           
 BRUCE  agreed that a portion of the money did go to the Kenai                 
 Peninsula Borough for some work there, but the remaining funds did            
 not go to them.  They did not get a mechanism within the department           
 to work with private land owners.  He added that the projects in              
 the program have been very popular and very successful.                       
 Number 120                                                                    
  SENATOR TAYLOR  expressed his continuing concern about habitat               
 enhancement on the Kenai River, particularly at flood time when the           
 river changes its course drastically.  He questioned if there was             
 a rationale here and an overall plan.   MR. BRUCE  replied the                
 department is looking at the long range, recognizing that the river           
 does flood, and they are trying to develop ways of protecting                 
 private property and maintaining the fish productivity of the river           
 for the long term.  He said the Kenai has attracted so much                   
 attention because if a very well known, highly regarded, highly               
 visited river that has some spectacular fishing opportunities, but            
 that doesn't mean to say that it is the only river in the state               
 that should get attention.                                                    
 Number 200                                                                    
  MR. BRUCE  discussed various methods being used for stream                   
 stabilization, such as revegatation, constructing structures that             
 prevent erosion, floating docks instead of fixed docks, etc.  He              
 also informed the members that he would provide them with an                  
 evaluation sheet of all the different projects that private land              
 owners applied for this year.                                                 
 Number 255                                                                    
  SENATOR TAYLOR  asked what part of natural erosion and geology does          
 the Department of Fish and Game not understand.   MR. BRUCE                   
 acknowledged that there are natural forces that will overwhelm even           
 the best human efforts, but he said he thinks there a lot of other            
 less extreme conditions that we can influence and we can mitigate.            
  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  noted he has looked at different habitat enhancement         
 projects in other states that have been quite successful and at a             
 fairly low cost.  He suggested those are the types of projects the            
 department should be looking at.   MR. BRUCE  said what they are              
 doing right now is just one option, but this is an area that has a            
 lot of potential for fine tuning for particular circumstances both            
 for the habitat and the financial resources available.  He added              
 that  right now they have to go through another agency to award               
 these grants, which means overhead, and they believe it would be              
 more efficient to be able to do it within the Department of Fish &            
 Game.   CHAIRMAN LEMAN  said he'd like to see the department do               
 innovative things with these projects that will maximize the use of           
 the dollars, such as using volunteers, or using prison inmates,               
 Number 400                                                                    
  KEVIN BROOKS , Director, Division of Administrative Services,                
 Department of Fish and Game, speaking to Section 10, said the first           
 two repealers in that section apply to Fish and Game.  The cites of           
 Title 16 are repealers for the fish and game licensing statutes as            
 they currently read for vendor compensation.                                  
  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  asked how many vendors would be affected if the $50          
 per year compensation in Section 2 were deleted or reduced.   MR.             
 BROOKS  replied it could be in the area of a couple hundred vendors;          
 there are 1,400 vendors statewide.  He said he agreed with the                
 Chairman's earlier comment that it serves as an enticement,                   
 especially in the more remote areas.                                          
 Number 505                                                                    
  NICO BUS , Acting Director, Division of Support Services, Department         
 of Natural Resources, speaking to Section 9, explained the                    
 repealers (AS 46.15.190 - AS 46.15.240) repeal the Water Resource             
 Board, which has not been funded or held meetings for three years.            
  SENATOR TAYLOR  expressed his concern that it is his understanding           
 that there are 4,000 permit applications awaiting action on water             
 rights.   MR. BUS  acknowledged there is a backlog, but he wasn't             
 sure the 4,000 figure was correct.  He said the Division of Mining            
 and Water Management handles those applications and they are                  
 working hard to process the applications in order to get rid of the           
 backlog.  He noted the Water Resource Board is strictly an advisory           
 board and they do not handle those applications.  He also pointed             
 out that a lot of the applications are renewals, and one of the               
 things the department is looking at is changing it from a yearly              
 renewal requirement to renewing every five or ten years.                      
 Number 550                                                                    
  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  asked if there are some overlapping responsibilities         
 with the Soil and Water Conservation Board and the Water Resource             
 Board.   MR. BUS  said the Soil and Water Conservation  Board is              
 basically advising the commissioner and the governor on local area            
 districts, and he thought expanding their role could be looked at.            
 There being no further testimony on SB 215  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  asked for         
 the pleasure of the committee.                                                
  SENATOR PEARCE  moved that Section 1 be deleted from SB 215.                 
  CHAIRMEN LEMAN  objected.  A hand vote was taken with the following          
 result:  Senators Halford, Taylor and Pearce voted "Yea" and                  
 Chairman Leman voted "Nay."  The Chairman stated the motion                   
 SENATOR HALFORD moved that CSSB 215(RES) and the accompanying                 
 fiscal notes be passed out of committee with individual                       
 recommendations.  Hearing no objection, it was so ordered.                    

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