Lawmakers scrutinize salmon habitat initiative
A Senate panel on Friday heard concerns from Gov. Bill Walker’s administration over a ballot measure to update fish habitat laws.
The Senate State Affairs Committee heard the initiative could press state agencies into costly regulatory updates.
Department of Fish & Game Commissioner Sam Cotten told the committee passage could cost the agency about $1.3 million a year for five years.
The initiative is scheduled for the upcoming November general election, but it could still be off the ballot.
In coming weeks, the Alaska Supreme Court is expected to rule on whether the initiative is constitutional.
For now, committee chair Sen. Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, says he believes briefings such as Saturday’s are vital.
“All we want to do is see what impact, if this passes, will it have on the state of Alaska,” Meyer said. “I don’t think people understand what kind of huge impact this will have on the state if it passes. “
The initiative will also establish new guidelines for the Department of Fish and Game for permitting large-scale projects like mining, or oil and gas.
Supporters and opponents of the initiative disagree on what this measure means for resource development.
Industry officials have said the proposed permitting system could halt many projects.
Backers say it would update a 60-year-old law and require more responsible permitting for large-scale projects.
“This initiative is all about putting common sense, science based, responsible resource development standards in place,” said Ryan Schryver, director of Stand for Salmon. “And state agencies are going to have to change the way that they do things in order to accommodate that.”
Copyright 2018 KTVA. All rights reserved.