Tips for Testifying: HB 199 

Overview:

Alaska’s law permitting development projects in salmon habitat is outdated and ineffective. It lacks clear rules for protecting salmon habitat and creates uncertainty for the development community as well as all Alaskans who care about protecting salmon. Meanwhile, continued declines in our wild salmon runs and pressure from foreign mining companies put Alaska’s legacy of strong wild salmon at risk.

HB 199, “The Wild Salmon Legacy Act” was introduced as one way to update the law, in order to bring certainty transparency and stability to the permitting process, ensure Alaskans have a voice in protecting our legacy of wild salmon and promote responsible resource development in a growing Alaska.

Since it was originally introduced in January of 2017, HB 199 has gone through many amendments, rewrites, and revisions. While it provides some improvements to current law, it has been watered down and gutted from former drafts and no longer provides many of the protections Alaskans are asking for.

We are looking to solve 5 major deficiencies in current law. We seek to;

  1. Give Alaskans a voice in the permitting process by providing public notice and an opportunity to participate in important decisions that may impact Alaska’s legacy of wild salmon. (Currently, the law provides for no public process whatsoever)

 

  1. Create enforceable rules for habitat protection like protecting water quality, protecting instream flow levels, ensuring fish passage, and maintaining riparian areas that support the sustainability of Alaska’s fisheries and guide responsible
    1. (right now there are no rules or standards in the law)

 

  1. Give the Alaska Department of Fish and Game the authority they need to protect fish habitat and permit activities in the state. (currently, ADF&G only has permitting authority over water bodies that are in the anadromous waters catalog which ADF&G estimates contain less than 50% of the salmon streams in Alaska)

 

  1. Create a two-tier permitting system to streamline permits for minor activities and provide more scrutiny for projects that are more complex and have the potential to significantly impact fish habitat. (Current law process all applications the same way whether they are for a stream crossing or pebble mine)

 

  1. Promote responsible development by requiring projects to avoid or minimize adverse impacts to fish habitat before a permit is issued and by preventing development activities that will substantially damage fish habitat and threaten the sustainability of our salmon. (Under current law ADF&G does not have the authority to say no to irresponsible projects)

The new version of HB 199 provides for public participation and creates a two-tier permitting system but weakens or eliminates the other main objectives needed to fix the law to protect Alaska’s fisheries.

 

Tips for Testifying:

The following points provide general guidelines for testimony. These can help you draft testimony or provide a written comment that will demonstrate to Rep. Stutes, House Fisheries Committee and the state legislature that Alaskans like yourself support efforts to update our laws and Stand for Salmon. Public testimony will be taken at a hearing on Saturday April 7th at 10am You can testify in person in Juneau, by going to your local legislative information office or by calling in to this number: 844-586-9085

Testimony

  • Introduce yourself and explain why salmon are important to you based on your values and your life.
  • Thank the Bill sponsor Louise Stutes (R) Kodiak and the Fisheries committee for their work to protect Alaska salmon for future generations.
  • Explain why it is important to continue to work on the legislation and add stronger protections for Alaska salmon to the law now and not just leave the status quo in place.

Key Points:

  • It is time to update 16 and create a more transparent, responsible and balanced approach to large-scale development projects.
  •  Provide an opportunity for Alaskan’s to have a voice in the permitting process is a step in the right direction.
  • More work on HB 199 is necessary to truly protect Alaska’s salmon fisheries. The law also needs strong, enforceable standards to protect fish habitat and guide responsible development practices. The current version of HB 199 is not there yet.
  • We need to create real accountability to ensure that vital salmon habitat is not sacrificed when large projects are developed.
  • We need a strong state law to put Alaskans in charge of sustaining our state’s thriving salmon economy and way of life for future generations.
  • This measure puts Alaskans in charge of protecting our state’s thriving salmon economy and way-of-life for generations to come.
  • We are looking for a responsible update to a 60-year-old law that gives Alaskans a voice in protecting our state’s most vital natural resource: wild salmon.
  • This needed update to the old law will help ensure we have common-sense protections in place so nothing jeopardizes Alaska’s salmon fisheries and this cornerstone of Alaska’s economy and culture.

MelissaTips for Testifying