The salmon habitat ballot initiative

Fresh off their fights against the Pebble Mine, the Chuitna Mine, and the Watana Dam, three enterprising greens are setting their sights on all resource and infrastructure development statewide.  The three, one Mike Wood, Brian Kraft and Gayla Hoseth are pushing a signature gathering campaign for something they call “An Act providing for the protection of wild salmon and fish and wildlife habitat…”  You can find the language here:  http://www.elections.alaska.gov/petitions/17FSHB/Bill.pdf

The initiative is a strong echo of the ghastly HB 199 co-sponsored by Rep. Stutes, Josephson and Gara currently languishing in the House Fisheries committee.  Alice’s fish wrapper was overjoyed at the opportunity to kill yet more jobs during the height of a recession and gave the group space on the opinion page and did an article on the initiative.  https://www.adn.com/politics/2017/05/17/new-alaska-habitat-protection-initiative-would-turn-tables-on-miners-development/

Essentially, the initiative would allow the Commissioner of Fish & Game to set fish and wildlife habitat protection standards, issue permits in two flavors (major and minor), withdraw permits at any time, review permits, issue violations, levy and collect fines.  Best of all, nothing is grandfathered.  This means that every single existing resource development or infrastructure activity is going to have to get themselves an anadromous fish permit.

And that requirement for a permit can be levied at any time before or after the project starts or is completed.  The language of the initiative will allow any Commissioner to whistle in after the fact and demand such a permit for any mine, bridge, road, oil well, pipeline, or anything else.  And if you don’t comply, misdemeanors, fines and court action to shut you down follows.  Elect another democrat as governor who appoints the wrong Commissioner of Fish and Game, and the green complaints will cascade in, and he or she will respond with a blizzard of permit demands.  Great investment climate, that.

Better yet, for the major anadromous fish habitat permit, the Commissioner of Fish & Game may at his (or her) discretion, require an applicant to post a performance bond payable to the State of Alaska to ensure compliance with the permit and whatever conditions the Commissioner may or may not include when issuing the permit.  Of course no governmental or federally recognized tribe has to post the bond, as they are exempt.

Bonding in this case is going to be used to select the business interests of any of the over 200 artificial tribal entities created by Ada Deer under Bill Clinton here in Alaska in the late 1990s.  So this ballot initiative gives a racial preference for the ability to use of salmon habitat.  How quaint.

The lack of a requirement for bonding also applies to any government entity.  Apparently the silly little greens foisting this on Alaska forgot the major damage done by the EPA to the watershed of four southwestern states when they screwed around with water coming out of the Gold King Mine in Colorado in 2015.

The initiative also completely removes the Department of Environmental Conservation from any play with waters in Alaska which have fish in them.  And those waters don’t even need to be actual rivers.  According to the initiative language, they include “… a naturally occurring permanent or seasonal water body, including all upstream tributaries and segments, is anadromous fish habitat if it is connected to anadromous waters specified under (b) of this section or connected to marine waters.”  Such a definition would also include flood plains.  Also note that the referenced section (b) allows the Commissioner of Fish & Game to specify in regulation what fish habitat is.

This is a LOT of power to give to a political appointee, who may, like the current Commissioner Sam Cotton, be taking actions in the best interest of his commercial fishing buds rather than that of the rest of us.

And if DEC is no longer capable of protecting habitat, precisely what are we paying them to do these days?

This ballot initiative covers all the bases for the greens, democrats, unions and associated strap hangers.

  • It is completely open ended
  • It puts all regulatory and enforcement power into the hands of a single political appointee
  • It allows permits to be pulled, modified, or enforced at the discretion of that single political appointee
  • It does not grandfather any current activity
  • Even if the current Commissioner does not require such a permit, there is nothing keeping the next one from changing his or her mind
  • It requires all private / commercial businesses to bond for their activities.
  • That bonding requirement does not apply to any tribal activity
  • Neither does it apply to any government

I expect they will be able to collect sufficient signatures to put this on the 2018 ballot where it will be a big issue.  Want to do long-term economic damage to Alaska?  I can think of no better way to do so than to pass this.

And why are they doing this?  In order to protect the salmon, which are being systematically destroyed by commercial fishermen under the watchful eye of the current Commissioner of Fish & Game.  Some protection, that.

Alex Gimarc lives in Anchorage since retiring from the military in 1997. His interests include science and technology, environment, energy, economics, military affairs, fishing and disabilities policies. His weekly column “Interesting Items” is a summary of news stories with substantive Alaska-themed topics. He is a small business owner and Information Technology professional.

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