COMMENTARY: Former Attorneys General: Ballot Measure 1 is bad law

As former Attorneys General, and Alaskans fortunate enough to call this great state home, we urge Alaskans to vote “No” on Ballot Measure 1. The citizens who drafted our state Constitution understood that the protection of our natural resources was of the utmost importance, but they also acknowledged that a state with an abundance of natural resources, yet thinly populated and with little connectivity in terms of a road system, would have to rely on the responsible development. This principle is best expressed in Article VIII, Section 1 of our constitution, which states that “(it) is the policy of the State to encourage the settlement of its land and the development of its resources by making them available for maximum use consistent with the public interest.” Ballot Measure 1 disrupts this balance to the detriment of all Alaskans. The Alaska Supreme Court recently ruled that the initiative could remain on the ballot, but only after striking its unconstitutional sections. However, even after striking the most onerous provisions, the court observed that “viewed as a whole,” it was apparent that Ballot Measure 1 would create a broad new definition of what is protected fish habitat and make Alaska’s “fish habitat protection statutes significantly more restrictive.” For example, Ballot Measure 1 contains, according to the Alaska Supreme Court, “a plethora of undefined terms.” For landowners trying to comply with the law, this is a step in the wrong direction — and this is just as true for an entity seeking to develop a large mine as it is for land owners wishing to install a culvert on their property. It also radically expands the opportunity for legal challenges to granted permits, allowing anyone to challenge a permit in court resulting in costly delays and endless litigation. Under current laws and regulations, studies are required to determine whether a body of water contains certain kinds of fish. If Ballot Measure 1 passes, this flips, and all waters in the state will be assumed to be fish habitat until proved otherwise. This has the potential to create a legal quagmire for property owners, especially private citizens. Thousands of Alaskans have riverfront or lake front property, and there are many improvements to property that might impact a body of water, such as a stream, running on private property. Ballot Measure 1 may force a landowner to pay for an expensive habitat study to prove that fish will not be impacted by a planned improvement. Worse, Ballot Measure 1 changes the penalties from civil to criminal for property owners who fail to secure the required permits. Failure to seek a permit for even minor construction activity in a river flood plain, which encompasses huge areas of Alaska, will make individual Alaskans, workers on municipal projects, and business owners criminals under our laws. We are not alone in expressing grave doubts. We join dozens of groups and organizations in opposing this Ballot Measure. Contractors, regional and village Native corporations, labor unions, resource development and energy companies, and responsible Alaskans are rightfully concerned that another significant project may never be built in this state if the initiative passes — and this would certainly be true for rural Alaska as well. Ballot Measure 1 is a bad law. It has not been subject to public comment, hearings, or review by regulators or independent scientists. Alaska deserves better than Ballot Measure 1, and we urge Alaskan voters to reject this fatally flawed measure when they vote on Nov. 6. Signed by: Craig Richards, John Burns, Michael Geraghty, Dave Marquez and Sen. Dan Sullivan.

Regulators air draft plan to increase well bonding amounts

State regulators heard mixed reaction from oil industry representatives about proposed increases to bonding requirements for drilling new wells. The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission held a public hearing Oct. 16 in Anchorage on the draft regulations, which would demand up to a $30 million bond be posted to drill and operate the largest oil fields. The AOGCC oversees the technical down hole oil and gas drilling and resource issues for the state. AOGCC Chair Hollis French said the added bonding expense would update state regulations to better reflect today’s costs to plug and abandon a well. French referenced a 1991 Legislative Budget and Audit report that said the State of Alaska should update its minimum well bonding requirements. At the time the bonding requirements were $100,000 for one well and a minimum of $200,000 for multiple wells and a “statewide blanket bond,” he said, bonding levels that remain today. The 1991 report concluded that an operator with a $200,000 bond then likely wouldn’t be able to cover plugging and abandonment costs, according to French. The three-member commission held a work session in June 2017 to discuss updating the requirements. The resulting 23-tier bond schedule would require at least $500,000 for the first 2 permitted wellheads with the minimum amount increasing to $1.7 million for up to 10 wells. A $15 million bond would be required for up to 999 wells and $30 million for more than 3,500 wells. Alaska’s largest Prudhoe Bay and Kuparuk River fields have each contain more than 1,100 well bores. Alaska Oil and Gas Association Regulatory and Legal Manager Peter Caltagirone said the bonding rate changes would be unprecedented; he noted they amount to a 150 percent increase for drilling two wells, a 50-fold increase for 100 wells and a 6,500 percent increase for 500 wells. The proposed regulations also don’t consider other agreements operations might have with DNR, he said, and do not require the state to release the bond when a well is plugged and abandoned, as state regulations currently do. “The proposed changes discourage new investment at a time when Alaska could use some new investment,” Caltagirone said, adding they would require new producers to comply immediately. AOGA is open to updating the bonding requirements in some form, according to Caltagirone, but the industry group would like to see more communication amongst regulatory agencies. Commissioner Cathy Foerster retorted that the commission is only interested in meaningful cost comparisons, such as how the proposed schedule compares to actual current plugging and abandonment costs. ConocoPhillips Drilling Engineer Randall Kanady testified that the company, which operates the large Kuparuk and Alpine oil fields and is developing other large projects, believes the overall tiered approach is “sensible” but would like to see it simplified. He suggested the minimum bonds but broken into three tiers to generally match the operators — explorers, small producers and major producers — with a $1.25 million bond covering up to 19 wells; $6 million for up to 200 wells; and $12 million for additional wells. Kanady noted the $12 million bond would be a 60-fold increase over current requirements. The Audubon Society, The Wilderness Society and Cook Inletkeeper submitted joint testimony largely commending the commission for its plan. They cited a 2016 Bureau of Land Management report that stated the agency was spending $40 million to plug, abandon and clean up 18 wells in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska on the North Slope, or more than $2 million per well. These so-called “legacy” wells were drilled and abandoned by the U.S. Navy and U.S. Geological Service between 1944 and 1974, with BLM inheriting responsibility for cleaning up the wells in 1982, according to its website. The conservation groups praised the tiered bonding schedule instead of a “blanket” fee, noting the per well costs decrease as the number of wells grows. “These changes greatly improve the likelihood that state government will not have to pay the high costs of problematic well operations or abandonment throughout Alaska, including in remote parts of the state where it is very expensive to conduct industrial activities such as plugging and abandoning wells,” they wrote to the AOGCC. Several members of the public similarly approved of the plan. However, Kenai Peninsula resident Jim White testified that such costly requirements prevent individual Alaskans from participating in the state’s oil and gas industry. White said he holds subsurface mineral rights to 4,600 acres on the Peninsula. Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected]

AGDC navigates trade friction, touts Alaska-hire agreements

State gasline officials celebrated progress ensuring Alaskans will have first crack at filling the thousands of jobs that could be available to build the $43 billion Alaska LNG Project while at the same time trying to navigate the no man’s land of the U.S.-China trade dispute. The Alaska Gasline Development Corp. announced a framework deal with three construction trade groups Oct. 13 that are expected to lead to project labor agreements for building the three major components of the LNG export plan. The agreement with the Southcentral Alaska Building and Trades, Fairbanks Build and Trades, and the Alaska Petroleum Joint Craft councils sets the groundwork for negotiating project labor agreements, or PLAs, with the large engineering, procurement and construction firms that will manage the project through the construction phase. It sets the terms for work rotation schedules, employment and safety training requirements. Wage schedules for the project will be set based on current rates for public construction contracts when the work begins, according to AGDC. Gov. Bill Walker said in a formal statement that the state’s leading role in the project gives Alaskans control over the megaproject and puts them “in the driver’s seat for filling the thousands of jobs that this project will create.” The trade councils are affiliated with the Alaska AFL-CIO, which has endorsed Walker in the upcoming election for governor. “An Alaskans-first agreement guarantees qualified Alaska residents will be first in line to construct and operate the major components of this gasline,” Alaska AFL-CIO President Vince Beltrami said. AGDC estimates the project will generate upwards of 18,000 new jobs in the state over about six years of construction if it is sanctioned. Nearly 12,000 of those jobs will be directly dedicated to the project itself: 1,300 heavy equipment operators; 1,500 pipefitters and welders; 2,300 general laborers; and 3,500 truck drivers to move countless types of materials, modules and construction equipment — not to mention the 807 miles of steel pipe. Hundreds more electricians, carpenters, ironworkers and engineers will also be needed, as well as 1,600 people to feed, house and otherwise support those swinging hammers and welding pipe, according to AGDC. Trade talk Meanwhile, corporation President Keith Meyer emphasized the ongoing viability of the project in the face of a 10 percent tariff instituted last month by China on U.S. LNG imports during an Oct. 11 board of directors meeting. China originally contemplated a 25 percent tariff on U.S. LNG imports. Nationalized Chinese oil and gas giant Sinopec is a tentative anchor customer for the project after it signed a nonbinding agreement with AGDC to purchase up to 75 percent of Alaska LNG’s expected 20 million tons per year of production capacity in November 2017. That joint development agreement also detailed the prospect of the Bank of China and China Investment Corp. correspondingly financing up to 75 percent of project development costs with a mix of debt and equity. The Chinese consortium and AGDC signed a supplemental agreement Sept. 29 to collectively reaffirm their desire to reach a firm deal by the end of this year, Meyer noted. He said the “trade friction” between Washington and Beijing is creating uncertainty that LNG project developers in other countries see as an opportunity to fill growing Chinese demand for natural gas imports. “This project looks beyond that momentary friction,” Meyer said in an interview, adding that a contingent from the Chinese embassy was recently in Anchorage to discuss Alaska LNG and broader trade opportunities with state officials. “Their message is cooperation not conflict, and we feel that way as well,” he said. Negotiations are progressing; the companies are awaiting government approval on certain deal terms and Sinopec has signed confidentiality agreements with the producer companies in Alaska that provides access to the upstream gas resource data, according to Meyer. He also stressed that the project’s stable gas pricing — AGDC has estimated it can get LNG to Asian ports for $7 to $8 per million British thermal units — is still a very strong selling point for utility customers wanting an alternative to the price volatility of traditional oil-linked LNG contract terms. FERC homework On the regulatory side, AGDC Vice President of Program Management Frank Richards said he expects the corporation to set a schedule to respond to the latest series of questions and comments from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in the next few weeks. On Oct. 2, FERC, which is writing the Alaska LNG environmental impact statement, or EIS, sent AGDC 193 questions and comments, the sixth such data request the agency has issued for the project. Richards said that some of FERC’s requests will have to wait until data can be gathered during the 2019 summer field season and others won’t be needed until the final EIS is being drafted. AGDC has been on a tight budget since taking control of the project in January 2017 and Meyer acknowledged that funding has to some extent impacted the corporation’s ability to answer FERC quickly. “If we had more money to spend we could turn (responses) quicker, but I think we’re turning it adequately,” he said. AGDC has chosen not to request additional funding from the state Legislature over the last two budget cycles while the state was in the midst of multibillion-dollar budget deficits. Instead, since early 2017 the corporation has relied on $102 million left over from prior year gasline appropriations to pull together the $43 billion endeavor. The corporation had $48.6 million remaining as of August and is forecasted to have $12.1 million left at the end of the 2019 state fiscal year in June, according to Finance Manager Philip Sullivan. He said AGDC is under-spending its budget in all areas; actual spending was $247,000 below its operating budget plan for the first two months of fiscal 2019. Its full-year operating budget was approved at $10.3 million. A contributing factor to that is AGDC currently has 20 full-time in-house employees, but it budgeted for 26 employees, Sullivan added. Richards and Meyer also noted that despite the tight funding for advancing the EIS, FERC recently moved the Alaska LNG EIS schedule up a month; the draft EIS is now expected in February 2019, with a final draft coming the following November. Meyer said additional funding would most help with “keeping an aggressive construction schedule on track,” as the industry consensus is that the current global LNG oversupply will evaporate closer to 2022 than the 2024-25 timeframe discussed a couple years ago. Most of the growing demand is coming from China, he said. “Now everybody’s trying to be that project to fill that (supply) gap,” Meyer added. While AGDC has not directly asked for additional funding, the corporation requested authority from the Legislature last session to accept third-party investments. However, the Legislature rejected that request in its final state operating budget. If AGDC could get an injection of more than $100 million, the corporation would be able to complete advanced engineering and schedule long lead time items, such as pipe for the gasline from steel mills that are already busy with orders in the global natural gas boom, Meyer said. That funding would be rewarded with an equity share of the project. “The more money we have the more aggressive we can be,” he said. Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected]

Council considers options for tracking halibut rental boats

A lot of unanswered questions, concern about fishery access and uncertainty about who is responsible remain part of the debate over how to register and track halibut harvested by unguided anglers in rental boats. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council discussed a potential course of action on a registry system for rental boats carrying unguided anglers fishing for halibut. It’s been an issue for the council for several years, springing from a sore spot among the commercial and charter halibut fleets because of the more relaxed bag limits on unguided halibut anglers. Unguided anglers get to keep two fish per day of any size, while guided anglers only get to keep one in Southeast and two with a size limit on the second one in the Central Gulf of Alaska. The charter sector is also subject to a sector harvest limit, while there’s no real tracking on unguided angler halibut harvest. In recent years, both private citizens and guides have been asking the council to do something about businesses renting out boats for unguided halibut fishing, particularly in Southeast. The intent of the higher bag limits was to protect access to the fishery for Alaskans, but some operations have begun commercializing it to bypass the charter sector. Potential solutions, though, are difficult to pin down. Council member and charter business owner Andy Mezirow introduced a motion with three suggested alternatives for how to keep a closer track on unguided anglers in rental boats, including doing nothing, requiring registration for non-guided rental sportfishing vessels, and aligning the bag limits in the charter and non-guided sector. Mezirow said this will be necessary given the growth in participation among nonguided anglers. “Defining all of these entities as one sector, requiring registration and applying the same bag limits is a necessary action to understand and then manage this fleet,” he said. The total sportfishing harvest of halibut in regulation areas 2C and 3A — Southeast Alaska and the Central Gulf of Alaska, respectively — actually declined between 2003 and 2016, but the proportions of who was harvesting them changed. In 2011, the harvest by unguided anglers surpassed the harvest of the charter fleet in Southeast, which may account for why people say the unguided sector is growing while the overall harvest numbers have stayed relatively flat, said Steve MacLean, the protected species coordinator for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. In the raw data, though, fish being caught on private boats by individual Alaskans are indistinguishable from fish coming off rental boats being hired by tourists, MacLean said. “Unfortunately, we don’t have data on the number of fish caught by rental boats,” he said. “We don’t have any way of understanding the number of halibut coming off these rental boats like other private boats.” Council staff researched the registration methods available and concluded that the Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles registry is likely close to accurate, though it’s hard to separate vessels specifically registered to rent for unguided halibut angling from other pleasure craft, he said. “We did identify at least one company that is known to offer boats to rent for anglers for halibut that does not have any registered rental boats, but does have registered pleasure boats,” he said. “We had to look up the business owner and look up their address, and then search for boats identified or registered to that owner or that address, and we did find that there were a number of boats registered to multiple people at that address, pleasure boats. “We also do know that there are several companies that do have a boat that is registered as a rental boat but they do not offer fishing services. There are a number of venture companies that offer zodiacs for (activities like) wildlife viewing, glacier access. Those are all counted as rental boats.” While staff members were building the discussion paper, they also investigated which would be the best agency to implement registration or logbook requirements. The National Marine Fisheries Service, which works with the council and the International Pacific Halibut Commission to regulate halibut harvest, has one type of registration established but does not collect logbooks. While the Alaska Department of Fish and Game does collect sportfishing guide logbooks and conduct a private angler statewide harvest survey, the agency indicated that a separate logbook just for private halibut anglers would be burdensome, MacLean said. Several residents of Southeast Alaska testified that they’ve seen operations like fishing lodges take advantage of the more liberal unguided bag limit by offering a day or two of guided fishing followed by a rental boat for unguided fishing or the establishment of “fishing clubs.” Linda Behnken, the executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, urged the council to move forward with registration requirements. Though it looks like harvest is flat, the council has to account for the fact that overall halibut abundance in the Gulf of Alaska has been declining, she said. “You’ve seen a drop in abundance, and you’ve seen the same level of removals,” she said. “That’s only happening because there’s an increased effort.” There’s a delicate line for the council to walk: protecting private resident access to the fishery and controlling business use of it. The motion isn’t intended to impinge upon private Alaskans’ ability to fish for halibut, especially as food, as citizen access to resources is provided for in the Alaska Constitution, Mezirow said. However, that’s something Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotten said he’s concerned about in this motion. “There’s a strong level of support from the commercial halibut industry for the direction this will take, and it sounds like there’s a strong level of support from the charter industry … but there’s really no lobby for the resident angler,” he said. “When you look at the definition that’s been used here … resident anglers are going to be impacted differently based on their own economic situation, perhaps.” Elizabeth Earl can be reached at [email protected]

Researchers tackle data gaps in ocean acidification impacts

SEWARD — Increasingly acidic oceans are expected to affect marine species on which fishermen of all stripes rely. One of the things that’s not known is how it’s exactly going to affect each individual species, particularly in Alaska. A group of researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks is looking into the effect of ocean acidification on three clam species — littleneck and razor clams and cockles — that are important for subsistence and sport harvest in the state. Entrenched in their research is a desire to know more generally about how ocean acidification is going to play out in the state. “Our goal is really to define what those sensitivities are in the hope of managing these species,” said Amanda Kelley, an assistant professor of marine biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. “What we can say is that okay, if our data supports what is happening with these species, we know that (a specific species) is more sensitive to climate change effects.” Kelley and two of her graduate students are working on research specific to how more acidic oceans will affect shellfish. For Marina Washburn, who is working toward a master’s degree in marine biology, there’s a personal connection, too: she grew up harvesting the once-plentiful razor clams on the beaches of Ninilchik and Clam Gulch. Due to depressed populations, that fishery has been closed for four straight seasons. Washburn successfully hatched razor clams this summer at the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery in Seward, the first time it’s ever been done in a lab. Her project involves continuously bubbling a set amount of carbon dioxide into seawater, patterned after what scientists expect ocean conditions to be like by 2100. The project can be done all year because it’s done in a closed lab, she said. The collapse of the razor clam fishery on the east side of Cook Inlet likely isn’t solely due to ocean acidification — the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has cited harvest pressure, poor survival, storm damage and unfavorable environmental conditions among the possible causes — but it could be playing a role. Even if it isn’t now, it could in the future, Washburn said. “That sad truth about mollusks in in Alaska is that (the information available) is shockingly low,” Washburn said. “There is very little research. I think Alaska has a problem with not appreciating our resources like shellfish and fish until there is a problem.” Researchers worldwide have been tracking a gradual increase in the acidity of the ocean, linked to an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Essentially, the ocean absorbs more of the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and breaks it down, absorbing the carbon molecules and creating carbonic acid. Some of that carbonic acid breaks down, though, freeing hydrogen molecules and increasing the pH of the water, making it more acidic and raising a host of issues for marine animals adapted specifically to a less acidic ocean. Shellfish are on the front lines of those risks. More acidic oceans can dissolve the calcium carbonate-based shells mollusks build to protect their soft bodies, exposing them to predation. Mollusks are important in the marine food chain — everything from fish to otters to sea stars predate on shellfish. Many Alaskans also depend on shellfish for subsistence. Ashley Rossin, a marine biology Ph.D. student working with Kelley, is studying the impact of ocean acidification on littleneck clams and cockles, both of which have been traditional subsistence foods. Out in remote coastal communities, where imported groceries are not as common and are more expensive, rural residents have relied on abundant shellfish for generations. That’s changed in the last decade or so, as populations of clams around the state have reportedly been in decline, Rossin said. “(In research, rural populations have) said they don’t even know what to do, and the clam and chiton populations are so small but they need to continue to fish there because that’s what available to them, but they don’t want to fish them because they know it may not be good for them,” she said. Her project includes looking at the water in beaches where littlenecks and cockles settle — called pore water — to see if the conditions there are different than the surrounding ocean and how that may affect them. The two species occupy the exact same habitats but have opposite life history strategies, Rossin said — littlenecks grow slowly while cockles grow quickly. “(Kelley) wanted to see what the difference in their responses would be,” Rossin said. “We’re going to see basically which one is the winner or the loser in this situation. The conditions that are there are kind of unknown … some people have hypothesized that the water in that sediment is actually more acidic.” One of the frustrations all three mentioned was a lack of overall existing data both about existing shellfish populations and about the effect of ocean acidification on Alaskan species overall. Kelley said there have been about six studies so far about ocean acidification’s effect on Alaskan marine animal species in Alaska. The work they’re doing on shellfish is the first of its kind in the state, she said. “We are only measuring one variable in the lab,” Kelley said. “But what you start to do is develop a series of mounting evidence. The only thing we can do is accumulate evidence … Alaska is behind the curveball for research on climate change. Funding is definitely a big part of it. I have to submit grants (for research) and when I submit a grant, I have to compete with everyone else who wants to study seabirds.” Rossin’s project includes a citizen science aspect using the Local Environmental Observation, or LEO, network and Epi Collect 5, asking individuals to record their observations about shellfish and shellfish harvests all over Alaska. Alaska SeaGrant is supporting both projects, in part because of the importance of the clam species to harvest by the subsistence, sport and commercial sectors alike. There is some baseline information being gathered around the state, though. In a back room at the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery, shellfish biologist Jacqueline Ramsay is testing water samples from all across the Gulf of Alaska coast for their baseline water conditions to help track localized changes. At first glance, it looks like she’s storing shelves and shelves of six-packs of beer. But those are actually the sample containers: she has citizen scientists gather water samples in cleaned, recycled beer bottles and mail them to her at the hatchery. She then plugs them into a machine known as the Burke-o-lator — named for its creator, Burke Hales of Oregon State University — to continuously test them for water quality measures. “What this machine does is it just constantly sips on (the water sample) and measures salinity and pH (among other metrics),” she said. Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery, the only shellfish hatchery in Alaska, is an operation of Chugach Regional Resources Commission. Ramsay receives samples from many of the corporation’s member villages, from Seldovia to Eyak, with about three years of data on hand. She’s working with several other researchers through to build baseline data on existing conditions in Alaska using these longterm data sets. Longterm data is important for gauging changes, establishing baseline conditions to work with on different species and locations. “I think we alread know that pollock and crab and clams all react differently,” Ramsay said. “That’s why this is so important.” Alaska is especially vulnerable to ocean acidification in the future, as colder water holds more gas and is more susceptible to changing pH. With Alaska’s dependency on healthy marine ecosystems for healthy fisheries and subsistence, being able to look forward and estimate impacts will be important, Washburn said. “We’re kind of getting hit on both sides,” she said. “As terrible as it is, Alaska is a great place to study ocean acidification, because we are going to feel the effects of it.” Elizabeth Earl can be reached at [email protected]

Salmon stakeholders split over ballot initiative

Opinions on the salmon habitat initiative officially dubbed Ballot Measure 1 are about as diverse as Alaska’s fisheries. About the only thing uniform in the environmental policy debate is the resource development industry’s collective opposition to it. Nearly, but not all, of the 12 Alaska Native regional corporations oppose it; Bristol Bay Native Corp. has maintained a neutral position on the voter initiative for most of 2018 after CEO Jason Metrokin originally said the company was against it. Commonly known as the Stand for Salmon initiative, Ballot Measure 1 is seen by many as a way to stop the controversial Pebble mine in Western Alaska, which BBNC has long and vigorously opposed. The initiative seeks to overhaul Title 16, the Department of Fish and Game’s statutory directive on how to evaluate development projects in salmon habitat. Current law directs the Fish and Game commissioner to issue a development permit as long as a project provides “proper protection of fish and game.” The sponsors contend that is far too vague and an update is needed to just define what “proper protection” means. The initiative would, among other things, establish two tiers of development permits that could be issued by the Department of Fish and Game. “Minor” habitat permits could be issued quickly and generally for projects deemed to have an insignificant impact on salmon waters. “Major” permits would be required for larger projects such as mines, dams and anything determined to potentially have a significant impact on salmon-bearing water. Mitigation measures would be acceptable as long as they are implemented on the impacted stream or wetland area. A series of public notices and comment periods would also be added to the salmon habitat permit adjudication process; it is currently one of the few public resource-use permits issued by the State of Alaska that does not provide an avenue for public input. Additionally, the project sponsor would have to prove that impacted waters are not salmon habitat during any stage of the fish life cycle if the waters are connected to proven salmon habitat in any way but not yet listed in the state’s Anadromous Waters Catalog. The sponsors insist it is not aimed to stop development projects; rather, they argue would set high but transparent permitting standards that are necessary to protect salmon resources that are already being stressed by multiple factors. While Alaska Native corporations are mostly against Ballot Measure 1 and are actively fighting it as members of Stand for Alaska–Vote No on 1, many of their shareholders feel differently. Stand for Salmon, one of the nonprofits leading the advocacy for the initiative, lists 21 Alaska Tribes, Tribal consortiums and other Alaska Native organizations such as the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. and the Bristol Bay Native Association as supporters on its website. A separate list identifies roughly 200 Alaska businesses and organizations — many fishing-focused, many not — as supporters as well. Conversely, Stand for Alaska touts a coalition of more than 500 businesses and trade groups in opposition to Ballot Measure 1. The list of those opposed includes the Pacific Seafood Processors Association, which represents some of the largest companies in Alaska’s fishing industry, although some of them focus on species other than salmon. PSPA officials declined to go into much detail about their position on Ballot Measure 1, but noted the group has long been against natural resource management via voter initiative and highlighted its opposition Pebble mine. United Fishermen of Alaska, the largest trade organization in the state representing a broad spectrum of fishing industry and marine-related members, voted to remain neutral on Ballot Measure 1, according to UFA Executive Director Frances Leach. Leach said in an interview that the complexity of the initiative led to the middle-ground vote at the group’s fall meeting. “We would like to see natural resource groups work together to foster a collaborative approach to preserving our Alaska water resources and habitat,” Leach said, adding that if the initiative is voted down on Nov. 6, UFA wants the Legislature to take up the issue of updating the state’s salmon habitat protections again. UFA sent a letter to legislative leaders in March 2017 urging them to make changes to Title 16, which hasn’t been revised since statehood — a primary reason many cite for supporting Ballot Measure 1. UFA’s letter followed a letter from the state Board of Fisheries to House Speaker Rep. Bryce Edgmon and Senate President Sen. Pete Kelly in January 2017, urging them to revise Title 16. The board specifically requested changes that would allow for public participation in habitat permitting and enforceable standards for the Department of Fish and Game to evaluate development proposals against. The board’s letter spurred House Fisheries Committee Chair and Kodiak Rep. Louise Stutes to introduce House Bill 199 — which the initiative largely mirrors the original version — in early 2017. However, HB 199 did not move out of Stutes’ committee after more than a year of discussion and revision. Other than Israel Payton of Wasilla, Board of Fisheries members were generally reluctant to discuss their thoughts on Ballot Measure 1. Payton said in an interview that he would certainly prefer the issue of further protecting salmon habitat be handled through the legislative process, but said he would be voting for the initiative. “Of course, everyone on the board is pro-fish; I think everyone is kind of pro-development as well,” said Payton, who noted he has worked at North Slope oil fields and now is in real estate development. Payton said he finds a provision in the initiative that would put the onus on project proponents to prove the waters they propose to impact are not salmon habitat as particularly beneficial. ADFG Habitat Division officials estimate roughly half of the state’s anadromous fish habitat has been identified and therefore receives additional permitting protections under Title 16. “At the end of the day I have to believe some stronger habitat protections have to be a good thing,” Payton said. Board member John Jensen, who was chairman when the Title 16 letter was written to the Legislature and owns a boat rental business in Petersburg, said he will be voting “no” on Nov. 6. Jensen, who is also a board member for the Southeast Alaska Power Agency, said he doesn’t believe there is enough science supporting the provisions in Ballot Measure 1. “I think we should take better care of our fish streams but naming every stream and creek a salmon stream is problematic,” he said. Jensen added that he believes the initiative was generated from anti-Pebble sentiment, but it could add roadblocks for developing and maintaining Southeast’s power grid. Robert Ruffner and board chair Reed Morisky both withheld how they will be voting on Ballot Measure 1. Ruffner, a former leader of the nonprofit Kenai Watershed Forum said he, too, would prefer the Legislature deal with fish habitat issues, but acknowledged legislators have been dealing with more pressing budget issues in recent years. He said he does not want his position to be used by either side of the Ballot Measure 1 debate. “It’s really important that we protect our habitat by some mechanism and unfortunately the initiative process brings out rhetoric on both sides,” Ruffner added. Morisky, a fishing guide from Fairbanks, said “everything in that letter is still how I feel about it,” but like Ruffner said revealing how he feels about the initiative would detract from the more important debate. Morisky noted that he is a lifetime member of Trout Unlimited, which strongly supports the initiative, but also has spent time working on the North Slope. He will continue to advocate for a legislative solution. “I might not know until I get in there behind the curtain,” he said on how he will vote on Ballot Measure 1. Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected]

Movers and Shakers for Oct. 21

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Statewide Airport Operations Superintendent Jeremy Worrall has been elected to the board of directors of the Northwest Chapter of the American Association of Airport Executives for 2018-19. The organization is made up of more than 300 aviation professionals from the states of Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, Utah, Montana, Wyoming and western provinces of Canada. Its mission is to promote airports by developing, connecting, and educating aviation industry professionals. The Alaska Superintendents Association announced Andi Story of Juneau as recipient of the 2018 ASA Don MacKinnon Educational Excellence and Human Recognition Award. Story has been recognized as an outstanding school board member who has dedicated the past 15 years to public education through her service on the Juneau School District Board of Education. Story was part of a school board that established new higher standards for math and literacy, raised the credit requirements for graduation while at the same time increasing the graduation rate, increased teacher and staff professional development, improved student achievement and prepared graduates for post-secondary success. The MacKinnon Educational Excellence and Human Recognition Award was established in 1985 to recognize Don MacKinnon and his service to education in Alaska. MacKinnon was instrumental in forming a cooperative alliance among all school administrators and public education partners and was the first Executive Director of the Alaska Association of School Administrators now ASA and the Alaska Council of School Administrators. The Alaska Travel Industry Association announced its 2018 Visitor Industry Awards recipients at its annual convention in Fairbanks. Award winners are selected by visitor industry peers based on professional excellence and service to Alaska’s tourism industry. Alyeska Award: Lazy Otter Charters, Whittier; Chuck West Award: Alaska Photo Treks, Anchorage; Denali Award: Deb Hickok, Fairbanks; Lifetime Achievement Award: Dee Dee O’Brien, Anchorage; Special Recognition Award: UnCruise Adventures, Seattle; Spirit of Alaska Award: Northern Alaska Tour Co., Fairbanks; Stan Stephens Stewardship Award: Colleen Stephens, Valdez; Visitor Industry Hall of Fame Award: Steve Mahay, Talkeetna. The Alaska Travel Industry Association announced its 2018-19 board of directors on Oct. 11 at the ATIA Annual Convention in Fairbanks. The Executive Committee is: Chair Elizabeth Hall, John Hall’s Alaska Cruises &Tours; At-Large Vice Chair Dan Oberlatz, Alaska Alpine Adventures; Southwest Past Chair Dennis McDonnell, Alaska Coach Tours; Southeast Secretary/Membership Chair Holly Johnson, Wings of Alaska &Taku Glacier Lodge; Southeast Treasurer/Finance Chair Bill Pedlar, Knightly Tours; Outside Marketing Chair Colleen Stephens, Stan Stephens Glacier &Wildlife Cruises; At-Large Marketing Vice Chair Linda Springmann, Holland America Line; Outside Government Relations Chair Scott Habberstad, Alaska Airlines; Outside Tourism Policy &Planning Chair Patti Mackey, Ketchikan Visitors Bureau; Southeast President &CEO, Sarah Leonard, ATIA. The board of directors is: Bonnie Quill, Mat-Su Convention &Visitors Bureau, Southcentral; Brett Carlson, Northern Alaska Tour Co., Far North; Dave McGlothlin, Holland America Group, Outside; Deb Hickok, Explore Fairbanks, Interior; John Binkley, CLIA/Alaska Cruise Association, Riverboat Discovery; At Large Josh Howes, Premier Alaska Tours, Southcentral; Julie Saupe, Visit Anchorage, Southcentral; Kirk Hoessle, Alaska Wildland Adventures, At Large; Kory Eberhardt, A Taste of Alaska Lodge, Interior; Tennelle Peterson Wise, Grande Denali LLC, Interior. Northrim Bank announced Associate Vice President Jason Gentry as the new lending branch manager in Ketchikan. Gentry joins Northrim Bank with more than six years in the financial industry and 24 years in customer service in Alaska. A longtime Alaskan, Gentry grew up in Barrow/Utqiagvik and attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He has received multiple awards from Carrs/Safeway for customer service and profitability and was a member of the Wells Fargo “All Star” commercial loan production club. BLM seeks nominations for citizen councils The Bureau of Land Management in Alaska is reopening the public call for nominations for 10 open positions on its citizen-based advisory council. Resource Advisory Councils provide advice and recommendations for the BLM to consider on a range of resource and land management issues. The BLM maintains 38 such chartered advisory committees located in the West. Each Council consists of 10 to 15 members from diverse interests in local communities, and they assist in the development of committee recommendations that address public land management issues. RACs are critical in assisting the BLM in continuing to be a good neighbor in communities served by the Bureau. An individual may self-nominate or nominate others to serve on a council. Nominees must be residents of Alaska and will be reviewed on the basis of their training, education, and knowledge of the council’s geographic area. Nominees should also demonstrate a commitment to consensus building and collaborative decision-making. A letter of reference must accompany all nominations from any represented interests or organizations per the categories below, also a completed RAC application, and any other information that speaks to the nominee’s qualifications. The 10 positions open on the RAC are in the following categories: Category one: Public land ranchers and representatives of organizations associated with energy and mineral development, the commercial timber industry, transportation or rights-of-way, off-highway vehicle use, and commercial recreation. Category two: Representatives of nationally or regionally recognized environmental organizations, archaeological and historical organizations, dispersed recreation activities, and wild horse and burro organizations. Category three: Representatives of state, county, or local elected office; representatives and employees of a state agency responsible for the management of natural resources; representatives of Indian tribes within or adjacent to the area for which the RAC is organized, Alaska Natives as appropriate to the state of Alaska; representatives and employees of academic institutions who are involved in natural sciences; and the public-at-large. A term on a RAC is for three years. As published in a notice in the Oct. 1 Federal Register, the BLM will consider nominations for 30 days, until Oct. 31. There are six positions opening in 2018, and another four in 2019. Please send nominations by Oct. 31 to Lesli Ellis-Wouters: (907) 271-4418; [email protected]

FISH FACTOR: Whitefish quotas revealed; cod seeking colder water

Catches for next year’s groundfish fisheries reflect ups and downs for Alaska’s key species — pollock and Pacific cod — and the stocks appear to be heading north to colder waters. The bulk of Alaska’s fish catches come from waters from three to 200 miles offshore with oversight by federal fishery managers. Their advisory arm, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, reviews stock assessments for groundfish each October and sets preliminary catches for the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea and updates them as new data become available. If the proposed catches get the go-ahead in December, the Bering Sea pollock harvest will increase slightly to nearly 1.4 million metric tons, or more than 3 billion pounds. For Pacific cod, Bering Sea the catch could be reduced to 350 million pounds, a drop of 64 million pounds from this year. The cod numbers might change due to big differences between the 2017 and 2018 survey results in southeastern and northern waters, where large numbers of fish appear to be migrating. Over the year, the cod biomass dropped 21 percent in the southern region but increased 95 percent in the northern area. The northern cod are genetically similar to the southern cod, making it unlikely that the fish hail from Russia or the Gulf of Alaska, said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research biologist Ingrid Spies in a presentation to the council last week. “What happens to those fish in the north is still an open question,” NOAA scientist Grant Thompson told Undercurrent News. “Are they spawning up there? Are they maturing and dying? It’s kind of uncharted territory.” The numbers are more straightforward for pollock and cod catches in the Gulf of Alaska and reflect declines for both species. Proposed pollock catches show a 34 percent drop to 228 million pounds, a drop of 118 million pounds from this year. For Gulf cod, next year’s catch is likely to be down 5.5 percent to 27.2 million pounds, a decline of 1.6 million pounds. One of the brightest Gulf of Alaska findings is the continuing upward trend of sablefish (black cod) seen over several years. The preliminary sablefish catch for 2019 was boosted by 40 percent to nearly 36 million pounds. OTIS redux Alaska lays claim to over half the nation’s coastline and a third of the U.S. exclusive economic zone, making it prime real estate for those wanting to get in on the push to develop our oceans. That’s requiring new ways of thinking about traditional sectors such as fisheries, tourism, marine trades and oil/gas, as well as providing opportunities for new “blue economy” business ventures. To hone a wave of entrepreneurs, a second Ocean Technology Innovation Sprint will task 30 Alaskans this month with finding a problem and creating a prototype solution for a venture of their choice. They will be assigned to five teams and meet one day a week for five weeks before revealing their ideas to the public. While the meet-ups are mostly in Anchorage, teams also can connect virtually from anywhere in the state. “The remote teams are live streamed to every event and they can work together on a digital whiteboard as if they were in person,” said Meg Pritchard, marketing and communications manager for the Alaska Ocean Cluster and OTIS co-organizer. “There was so much interest last year it has become a huge part of OTIS, because it’s meant to bring together people from diverse locations.” The goal of OTIS, which is modeled after a Google Ventures program, is to create an “economic ecosystem” of innovators, educators, mentors and businesses to help grow new products from the bottom up. Last year’s OTIS winner was a Sea Green energy bar made from 20 percent seaweed. Other teams created a bycatch reduction system using net cameras, a tidal generator and one group investigated using machine learning to count salmon. Pritchard said connections are increasing across the state. “There is a steadily growing network of people who believe that ocean technology and developing a blue economy is the way to move forward for Alaska’s economy,” she said. OTIS is a partnership of the Alaska Ocean Cluster and the University of Alaska Anchorage Economic Development and Business Enterprise Institute. The Sprint runs from Oct. 20 through Demo Night on Nov. 20. Winning women videos Women who mend nets for a living in Vigo, Spain took home the top prize in the International Association for Women in the Seafood Industry video competition. The contest was launched last year as a way to increase awareness about women’s roles in the industry and to recognize their value. This year’s contest attracted 15 videos (limited to four minutes) from around the world. The winner, Puntada Invisible, highlights a woman named Beatriz who has been mending nets for 33 years, often outside in all weather. “I think nobody is aware of how important our work is for the fishing sector, because everyone here looks at the fishing, the skipper, the boat, a good engine, a good engineer. Nobody looks at us here. We are totally invisible,” Beatriz said. The second-prize winner was Mujeres del Mar del Cortés, a film about women in Santa Cruz, California, who formed a sustainable clam farming cooperative. Two films tied for third place. Girls who fish in Petty Harbour is about women in Newfoundland who are mentoring others to run their own fishing operations and gain the experience and knowledge that has traditionally been dominated by men. The Invisible Hands tells the story of Ratna, the wife of a fisherman from the Bay of Bengal in India. Tired of struggling to make ends meet, Ratna partnered with five local women and got a government grant to start a food truck called a “fish nutri cart.” The women cook and sell their husband’s catches and are so successful they are applying for a second cart. The women said “their families now have enough to eat and their children are able to go to school.” There was one video entry from Alaska called Copper River that showcased the life of veteran Cordova fisherman, Thea Thomas. The judges were delighted with the breadth of the entries, said WSI president and founder, Marie Christine Monfort. “A lot of effort is being put into tackling illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing around the world,” she told SeafoodSource. “We see WSI’s mission as tackling IIU – invisible, ignored, and unrepresented women.” The top video took home 1,000 euros ($1,162) and 500 euros ($581) for second and third places and will be featured this month at the Gender in Aquaculture and Fisheries conference in Thailand, at the first women in fisheries international symposium in Spain in November, and at the international film festival of world fisherfolks in France in March 2019. ^ Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

COMMENTARY: Ballot Measure 1 is necessary update to Alaska law

The Alaska Policy Forum is part of a nationwide network of Koch brothers-funded extreme right-wingers advocating for the privatization of public education, “right-to-work” laws and elimination of most safeguards for our air, land and water, and its recent claims that those who are advocating for updates to Alaska’s existing salmon habitat permitting laws are “outsiders” is a classic deflection. The fact is, large-scale industrial development poses real risk to Alaska’s wild salmon runs, and now is the time to modernize salmon habitat laws. Development projects can and should happen. The question for the moment is: Will we take the steps to do these projects right? A “yes” on Ballot Measure 1 is the answer Alaska’s salmon, and the people who rely on them, need. A “no” leads us down the same path trod by every other region that once enjoyed salmon runs like those we still love and depend on. In the past 15 years, Alaska’s safeguards and oversight have been eroded. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Habitat Division has been hollowed out. The Coastal Zone Management Program has been eliminated. Meanwhile, federal laws like the Clean Water Act are under attack. It’s time for us Alaskans to take control of our future. Pebble mine in Bristol Bay is the starkest example of the current unprecedented threats to Alaska’s salmon. But the threats aren’t just on the horizon. Recent system failures and a couple near misses can also teach us a lot. We saw first-hand how threadbare the existing safety net truly is in 2011 when an Australian mining company operated for two years in total disregard of the permits and agreements entered with ADFG and the Alaska Department Environmental Conservation. In August of that year, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist flying a survey over the Salmon River near Goodnews Bay observed discharge from the Platinum Creek Mine, which was causing extremely turbid waters in the river. For two full mining seasons XS Platinum Inc. dumped a toxic slurry of untreated placer mining wastewater from its Platinum Creek Mine into the Salmon River, compromising the survival and habitat of salmon and other fish species in the waterway. In 2014, five officers and employees of XSP were indicted for conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act, violations of the Clean Water Act permits issued by EPA and ADEC and for submitting false statements to state and federal permitting agencies. The State did not join in the case or pursue any additional prosecution. To add insult to injury, several company officials avoided punishment when they skipped the country. This is clearly a system in need of an update. Salmon dodged a major bullet in the proposed Chuitna strip coal mine on the west side of Cook Inlet. The first phase called for the strip mining of coal through 13.7 miles of salmon spawning and rearing habitat, the removal of 1,361 acres of wetlands and the discharge of 7 million gallons of water a day into the Chuitna River. A total of 57 miles of salmon stream were ultimately at risk. The proponent of the project, PacRim, said they would rebuild the salmon stream when they were done, a feat no mining company has ever accomplished anywhere on Earth. The only thing that stopped this travesty was the market — a ton of coal is now worth less than a king salmon. This is cold comfort, especially when state officials are saying they are open to another proposal to mine the area. Finally, there’s the proposed Susitna-Wantana Dam project, shelved by Gov. Bill Walker due to cost. Mega dams are terrible for salmon. We know this. Yet a state agency pushed the project anyway. It’s a ridiculous situation in which those responsible for stewardship of salmon runs were asked to sit on the sidelines while another state agency pushed a plan to fundamentally alter one of Alaska most important salmon systems. Again, clear rules and reasonable laws and regulations did not stop Susitna — it was cost. The rest of the Pacific Northwest, after approving these same kinds of projects without protections for salmon habitat, has spent billions of dollars to restore once-thriving salmon runs. Alaska is heading in that direction, but it’s not too late. A “yes” vote on Ballot Measure 1 on Nov. 6 allows us to chart a better course. Longtime Alaskan conservationist Tim Bristol is the executive director of SalmonState. He lives in Homer.

Lt. Gov. Mallott resigns after 'inappropriate comments'

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott has resigned effective immediately, Gov. Bill Walker's office said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. The statement said Mallott "recently made inappropriate comments," though did not elaborate. "Byron recently made inappropriate comments that do not reflect the sterling level of behavior required in his role as Lieutenant Governor," Walker said in the statement. "I learned of the incident last night. Byron has taken full responsibility for his actions and has resigned." Mallott's resignation comes three weeks before Election Day, with the governor, elected as an independent, facing Democrat Mark Begich and Republican Mike Dunleavy. Valerie Nurr'araaluk Davidson, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, was sworn into the office during a private ceremony Tuesday afternoon. Dr. Jay Butler, chief medical officer in the Division of Public Health, was appointed commissioner of the Department of Health and Social Services, the governor's office said.

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