House Bill 77 – DNR’s Amendments Don’t Address Main Alaskan Concerns
By Dave Theriault, Alaska Center for the Environment Campaign Manger
Overview: DNR unveiled changes to House Bill 77 Monday afternoon. Amendments to the bill do not address major problems with the legislation. The most controversial sections of the legislation – expanded DNR power, eroding Alaskans rights to appeal DNR decisions and eviscerating the process for water reservations – remain largely unchanged and unfixed. The Parnell Administration waited 10 months before releasing changes to HB 77, and it refused to work with local Alaskans to craft a compromise, keeping people that voiced concerns in the dark. Rather than working with Alaskan to find compromise, the Administration made revisions in secret, closed-door meetings, and showed Alaskans the HB 77 changes just yesterday. Now, you have less than 48 hours to respond.
Public testimony — What will happen: The Senate Resources committee will take public testimony Wednesday afternoon at 3:30pm. This is the last guaranteed opportunity to speak out on House Bill 77. To give public testimony you are strongly encouraged to go to a Legislative Information Office http://w3.legis.state.ak.us/misc/lios.php Public testimony is limited to two-minutes a person so it is a good idea to prepare remarks ahead of time. The Senators on the committee need to hear why amendments to the legislation do not fix major issues with House Bill 77. It is critical to arrive and sign up to testify on time or you may not be allowed to speak.
General Permits: Empowers DNR to issue general permits for “an activity” over broad geographic areas of state land; once the general permit is in place, you will never know about specific projects authorized by it because these projects would not be noticed to the public. Current DNR staff seeks to assure us that only de-minimis activities will be issued via general permits but this proposed law is written to allow anything that is considered “an activity” so long as it does not “likely” cause “significant and irreparable” harm.
Limiting Legal Rights: Makes it more difficult for individual Alaskans to challenge DNR decisions, even when they don’t follow the rules. Under HB 77, you have to be “significantly adversely affected” in order to weigh in or challenge decisions. Direct financial or physical harm from the government decision – a very high bar that will limit your rights and raises the question whether subsistence users could challenge DNR decisions.
Water Reservations: Guts existing law, which allows Alaskans to reserve water in streams for wild fish, recreation or other uses. Despite some revisions, the new HB 77 provisions on water reservations give DNR unfettered discretion to put water reservations filed by Alaskans on the shelf, indefinitely. So, Alaskans can spend a lot of time and money to file an application to reserve water in a stream, but you will no longer have the right to actually be considered by the state. Furthermore, local governments, tribes and individuals can no longer hold their own certificate for a reservation; only ADF&G can hold the reservation.
Can’t make the public testimony, but want to speak on behalf of Denali Area Residents voice in the public process call Senate Resource Committee Member, Click Bishop, who is a swing vote in our region and maybe our next senator in redistricting: (800)-336-7383.
Critical Point: As Alaskans we deserve the right to be involved in the public process. By giving more power to an agency over its citizens, the state is saying decisions made in regards to public lands, intended to be for the best interest of all Alaskans, should have limited to no public involvement.
Unable to call: Email Senators Click Bishop and Lyman Hoffman and state the same important points.