The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

Bill may affect the future of sustenance fishing.

Letter to the Editor

 


As a kayak guide, one gets little exposure to fishing and can hardly be called a local. Still around Seward this kayak guide has caught wind of dwindling salmon numbers in recent years. Many families in Seward bank on consistent salmon runs to balance their yearly food budget. There are people in the 48 who are already rife with anticipation of a big catch during their summer trip to Seward. The prosperity of local fishing charters and canneries depend on the continued return of healthy salmon runs.

In 2014, House Bill 77 (HB77) may threaten these runs by allowing the Alaska DNR to grant permits for nearly any activity on state land. These permits may be granted without any public deliberation, which could lead to quick and dirty mining operations. In addition, public water rights may be granted long-term to private projects.

Under the bill these projects are not required to meet any criteria, which means they could harm fish and habitat without being held accountable. Many non-profit organizations and tribal entities, who have invested heavily in salmon habitat and run restoration, may have their water rights revoked. Many of these streams threatened by HB77 are in conflict with mineral development.

The DNR would be allowed under HB77 to permanently give away state land to development in the hopes that the project would somehow benefit the state. This could include projects which restrict flow and impede salmon spawning, or deny access to subsistence fishing spots.

When you open your freezer each remaining winter day, and slowly watch your salmon supply dwindle, remember that your catch relies on wild and free spawning streams.

If you’d like to know more about HB77, visit http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill.asp?bill=HB%20%2077.

After finishing your smoked salmon omelet, call one of your state legislators and let them know how you feel about HB77 and the freedom of your streams: Kurt Olson (D29), 465-2693; Mike Chenalt (D28), 465-3779; Paul Seaton (D30), 465-2689.

— Forest S. Hoff

 

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