Assembly Clarifies Subsistence and Rural Status Act

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

A bill that would leave the final word on rural versus urban status up to Congress has been bouncing around the Kodiak Island Borough and the Kodiak City Council this summer.

Senator Lisa Murkowski introduced the Subsistence Access Management Act of 2015, and many different groups have expressed concern that it would remove power from a local level. As such, both the assembly and council have postponed decisions on it at past meetings.

Mayor Jerrol Friend brought up the act again at the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly regular meeting last Thursday and says he and others joined Senator Murkowski in a teleconference two weeks ago. He says she and her colleagues explained the act more thoroughly.

“The process that happens now is gonna stay the same process,” says Friend. “And right now I guess some of the secretaries of interior or somebody up there big in Washington D.C. actually makes the determination on whether you’re rural or not. If you are rural right now, and these guys say you’re not rural, the way this legislation says, they can’t do that. Only congress can knock you back.”

He says that the only time Congress steps in is if someone tries to make a community non-rural. City manager Aimée Kniaziowski made the same point at a Kodiak City Council regular meeting in June, when she referred to an email she received from a D.C. lobbyist.

“The intent was never to eliminate local control, but simply to reinforce what they’d been hearing from the Kodiak community, that it would take a great deal to change, take away, the status of rural for the purposes of subsistence.”

Mayor Friend says he told those at the teleconference that people have been concerned about the act.

“What they said is they were asking Bud [Cassidy] and I [to] give names. They’re trying to get meetings set up similar to what we had with the city and try to get this information out to everybody,” says Friend. “It has been a communication issue, so hopefully we’re gonna hear a little more about that. But that kinda relieved a lot of the concerns I had personally as to how that works.”

It remains to be seen if local committees and governing bodies will come to a consensus as to whether the act is a protection or a restriction.

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