Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/18/1996 03:35 PM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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, etc. 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 carried. 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.