The only proposition on the ballot next month isn't necessarily easy to understand. Ballot Measure 1 would create new laws surrounding development projects that could directly or indirectly impact salmon habitat.

It does that in a couple of key ways:

  • First – it expands the number of protected waterways. Right now, state statutes protect more than 20,000 waterways. If Ballot Measure 1 is passed, it will assume all waterways are potential fish habitat and force developers to prove there aren't fish there.
  • Secondly – it creates three types of permits for development projects: classifying projects as requiring either a general permit, or, a "major" or "minor" permit, depending on the potential impact to fish habitat.

Polly Carr, executive director of the Alaska Center, appeared on KTVA's Daybreak in support of the measure. Former Anchorage District Attorney Clint Campion appeared in opposition. 

Carr describes the initiative as a proactive measure aimed at getting ahead of large scale projects that could potentially harm fish habitat. 

"This initiative is in response to the growing projects in Alaska that have been happening as we’ve been growing as a state," Carr said. "I think the most important thing in the changes that are being proposed with the permits is that we want to streamline the minor permits for projects that people are pursuing versus major permits for projects like the Pebble Mine."

At the same time, Campion cited record salmon runs in Bristol Bay as proof that Alaska's current laws are adequate. He warns an overhaul of the permitting process could carry unintended legal consequences and sends the wrong message to developers. 

"The biologists and regulators at the Department of Fish and Game have the authority and discretion they need to protect our salmon habitat. As a result of that wide authority and discretion that they have, we have the healthiest salmon habitat in the world," Campion said. "It sends a signal to industry and to the business community that it’s going to be harder and more expensive to do business in Alaska if this measure passes."

Ballot Measure 1 will appear on Alaska's general election ballot. Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 6.

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