Fisheries bill draws public testimony from across Alaska

Published: Apr. 7, 2018 at 5:31 PM AKDT
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The House finance committee on Saturday heard public testimony on HB 199, a bill that would change the permitting process for construction projects around certain fish habitats.

Since it was introduced last year, the bill has seen support from the commercial fishing industry and fishing advocates who feel it adds new protections to Alaska’s salmon fisheries. However, some of those supporters now feel that revisions to bill have made it weaker.

“I support HB 199 particularly in the form it was originally introduced,” said Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust director Tim Troll, speaking at the Anchorage legislative offices Saturday. “In a place like Bristol Bay, we should start with the presumption that all streams are anadromous and all parts of those streams are important. HB 199, as introduced, would do that.”

Meanwhile critics of HB 199 see it as simply anti-development, and the latest effort to stifle projects like the controversial Pebble Mine. Others argue that the bill would make the permitting process prohibitively expensive for new projects that could potentially add jobs and revenue to the state.

“Unfortunately rather than updating this bill attempts to circumvent common sense so completely that it will negatively affect any large or small development projects anywhere in our state,” said Anchorage resident Gail Phillips in her testimony.

Public testimony on HB 199 will continue on Monday and Tuesday according to the state legislature’s website.