Legislators spoke with the public at a community forum Thursday.
The idea for the event started with Kodiak representative Louise Stutes, and she also participated in the panel.
One of the topics she brought up was HB 199, a bill she’s representing in front of the House. The piece of legislation would protect salmon habitats if a development company wants to conduct activity that could impact them.
Stutes says the bill would update Title 16 of the Alaska statuettes, a section that hasn’t seen a revision since its beginnings 50 years ago.
She says, right now, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game needs to determine if the stream is anadromous or not when a development company applies for a permit. Streams are anadromous when they’re the sites of salmon activity, like migration or spawning.
The bill would shift the responsibility for identifying those bodies of water.
“This bill says every stream in the State of Alaska is considered to be anadromous, and if you are going to develop and you don’t believe it’s anadromous, then it is up to you to show that it is not anadromous and you must also bear the expense of doing so rather than the state bearing those costs.”
She says that’s one of the biggest changes.
The bill would also clear up some vague language about how the Department of Fish and Game should protect natural resources. Stutes says it’ll outline regulations for ADF & G to follow.
Kodiak fisherman Brent Watkins says the bill would give the public a chance to weigh in.
“Being given a voice back into the process, it puts the fishermen and the people of Alaska back at the table on all these projects by giving us a more open comment period and advertising these projects as they come up.”
Stutes says the next step for HB 199 is a public hearing in the Bethel area.
She says the bill will also be at the top of the list when the Special Committee on Fisheries convenes in January.