Legislature(2017 - 2018)BUTROVICH 205

04/03/2018 01:30 PM Senate TRANSPORTATION

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Heard & Held
Heard & Held
         SB 199-DALTON HWY: ACCESS TO PRIVATE PROPERTY                                                                      
1:32:49 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEDMAN announced the consideration of SB 199, an act                                                                     
related to the use of off-road vehicles within the James Dalton                                                                 
Highway corridor.                                                                                                               
1:33:08 PM                                                                                                                    
JOSEPH BYRNES, Staff, Senator Kelly, Alaska State Legislature,                                                                  
Juneau, Alaska, provided an overview of SB 199 as follows:                                                                      
     Senate Bill  199 would  allow for  the use  of off-road                                                                    
     vehicles within  the James  Dalton Highway  corridor to                                                                    
     access private  property within an  established history                                                                    
     of use as a homestead.                                                                                                     
     Under   AS  19.40.210,   off-road   vehicles  are   not                                                                    
     permitted  on land  within five  miles  of the  highway                                                                    
     right-of-way  except under  select circumstances.  One,                                                                    
     if  necessary,   for  oil   and  gas   exploration  and                                                                    
     development or  transportation; two, to gain  access to                                                                    
     a mining claim  in the vicinity of  the highway; three,                                                                    
     to travel across the corridor  from a point outside the                                                                    
     corridor to  another point outside the  corridor with a                                                                    
     snow-machine. Unfortunately,  this leaves  no exception                                                                    
     for  individuals and  their  families  who own  private                                                                    
     homesteaded land  adjacent to the corridor  who wish to                                                                    
     use an off-road vehicle to access their property.                                                                          
     This  issue  came  to our  office's  attention  from  a                                                                    
     constituent  who  owns   homesteaded  property  in  the                                                                    
     Brooks Range  that is virtually inaccessible  in winter                                                                    
     months without an airplane,  under current law. Article                                                                    
     8, Section 1 of the  Alaska Constitution states, "It is                                                                    
     the policy of the state  to encourage the settlement of                                                                    
     its  land  and  the  development of  its  resources  by                                                                    
     making them  available for  the maximum  use consistent                                                                    
     with the public interest;" this  section was one of the                                                                    
     reasons the  Legislature found  there was  an immediate                                                                    
     need for a  public highway from the Yukon  River to the                                                                    
     Arctic Ocean in the first place.                                                                                           
     Homesteading has  a rich history in  Alaska, going back                                                                    
     to  the  extension of  the  original  Homestead Act  to                                                                    
     include Alaska  by President William McKinley  in 1898.                                                                    
     By the time the last  homestead claims were made in the                                                                    
     1980s, around 3,500 people had  received land in Alaska                                                                    
     according   to  BLM,   [Bureau  of   Land  Management].                                                                    
     Homesteaders  represent  the  very  embodiment  of  the                                                                    
     state's desire to settle Alaska;  however, for a myriad                                                                    
     of  reasons access  has long  plagued residents  of our                                                                    
     state.  The  prohibition  on  off-road  vehicles  is  a                                                                    
     holdover from a  time when there was  concern about the                                                                    
     lack  of  sufficient  public  facilities  and  services                                                                    
     available  on the  Dalton  Highway.  Today, the  Dalton                                                                    
     Highway includes amenities familiar  to any traveler on                                                                    
     Alaska's   highways:    restaurants,   fuel   stations,                                                                    
     lodging, campgrounds, water  fill-up and dump stations,                                                                    
     and  rest areas;  it is  long time  that some  of these                                                                    
     restrictions  on  the  use of  the  Dalton  Highway  be                                                                    
     At the  very least this reevaluation  should begin with                                                                    
     this  bill,  SB  199.  This  proposes  a  very  limited                                                                    
     exception, only  for persons wishing to  access private                                                                    
     property  that was  historically used  as a  homestead.                                                                    
     The Department  of Natural  Resources has  only located                                                                    
     16  federally patented  homesteads within  10 miles  of                                                                    
     the  Dalton  Highway.  Furthermore, SB  199  would  not                                                                    
     abandon Board of  Game restrictions on the  use of off-                                                                    
     road  vehicles  for hunting  purposes  in  the area  or                                                                    
     restrictions  on   the  use  of  firearms   within  the                                                                    
     corridor for hunting.                                                                                                      
     SB 199  is a bill  of very  narrow scope that  is about                                                                    
     giving  homestead  property  holders  the  same  access                                                                    
     rights as  those with mining  claims and  those seeking                                                                    
     oil and gas development.                                                                                                   
1:37:24 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEDMAN opened public testimony.                                                                                          
1:37:33 PM                                                                                                                    
REBEKAH   VANDERLUGT,  representing   self,  Fairbanks,   Alaska,                                                               
testified  in support  of SB  199. She  disclosed that  she is  a                                                               
private  landowner   who  owns   property  through   the  Federal                                                               
Homestead Act. She said she  supports the bill because her family                                                               
has a  right for equal access  to their property. She  noted that                                                               
her  property is  virtually inaccessible  in the  winter and  her                                                               
family would like to access via snow-machines.                                                                                  
CHAIR  STEDMAN  asked  Ms.  Vanderlugt  for  the  number  of  her                                                               
property's homestead.                                                                                                           
MS. VANDERLAUGT replied that she did not recall.                                                                                
1:39:26 PM                                                                                                                    
ROD  ARNO, Executive  Director, Alaska  Outdoor Council,  Palmer,                                                               
Alaska, testified  in support of  SB 199.  He said the  bill will                                                               
provide  more  public  access  to public  resources  as  well  as                                                               
private lands.                                                                                                                  
MR. BYRNES noted  that Ms. Vanderlaugt and  her husband initially                                                               
brought the issue to the  attention of Senator Kelly's office. He                                                               
detailed to  committee members the  history of  the Vanderlaugt's                                                               
homestead site.                                                                                                                 
1:41:18 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEDMAN held SB 199 in committee.                                                                                         

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