It took freedom of information requests, weeks of queries to administrators and more than three months past a legal deadline for Gov. Mike Dunleavy to finally release his choice for a Board of Fisheries seat.
Dunleavy announced last Friday his appointment of Indy Walton of Soldotna to fill the vacant seat on the seven-member Board that directs management of subsistence, personal use, sport and commercial fisheries in state waters out to three miles. The vacancy came 115 days after the Alaska Legislature on May 11 rejected his choice of Abe Williams, a regional affairs director for the Pebble Mine.
Alaska law states that the governor must submit a new name to the Legislature within 30 days for confirmation, but Dunleavy moves to his own legal drummer and 15 candidates remained under wraps from the public although all applied for the BOF seat in June.
In a statement, the governor said Walton has 37 years of commercial salmon fishing experience at both Kodiak and Bristol Bay. He is a partner at Last Cast Lodge in Igiugik and has worked as a financial adviser with Edward Jones Investments for 19 years.
Court records show that Walton was charged with two closed waters fishing violations in 2005 and 2012 although the fines paid weren’t immediately available, reported KSTK in Wrangell.
Two Bristol Bay boats, Sniper and Turbo, are registered in his name.
Frances Leach, outgoing director of United Fishermen of Alaska, said in a statement that UFA “is excited” to work with Walton who is “a strong anti-Pebble Mine voice and is spoken of highly by his fellow Bristol Bay fishermen.”
But Representative Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, said Walton’s appointment could be controversial when he’s up for legislative confirmation next year due to his support for scrapping the law that limits Bristol Bay to 32-foot vessels.
“If that’s the case, he’s going to encounter a lot of resistance from year-round residents of the Bristol Bay region. We’ve fought long and hard to keep the 32-foot limit in place. Because otherwise, local fishermen, particularly our village fishermen, would be disenfranchised and wouldn’t be able to compete,” Edgmon told KSTK.
Walton’s first BOF meeting will be at its Oct. 20-21work session in Anchorage as it prepares to address fishery issues at Prince William Sound and Southeast Alaska.
Other applicants for the BOF seat include Ernie Weiss of Anchorage, Natural Resources Director at Aleutians East Borough and member of the Anchorage Fish & Game Advisory Committee; Tom Carpenter of Cordova, co-chair of the Copper River/Prince William Sound Advisory Committee, a PWS Aquaculture Board member and the 2020 Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game Excellence in Service Award; (Leo) Steve Brown, a longtime former biologist at ADFG, board president of Concerned Area M Fishermen and a board member of UFA and the North Pacific Fisheries Association; John Cox of Anchor Point, a retired Navy veteran and past president of the Anchor Point Chamber of Commerce who owns Smokin,’ a fine cigar and loose tobacco store; Patricia Edel of King Salmon, a middle school science teacher at the Bristol Bay Borough School district and owner of Blue Fly B&B and Guide Service; Brad Angasan of Anchorage, president of the Alaska Peninsula Corporation and a longtime Bristol Bay fisherman; Rhonda Pitka of Beaver, First Chief at Beaver Village Council and Chairwoman of the Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments.
Also, Hope Roberts of Valdez, Intertribal Liaison at Chugach Regional Resources Commission and co-owner of Surreel Saltwaters; Anthony Lekanof of St. George and Anchorage, executive director at Aleut Corporation; Fritz Johnson of Dillingham, a former two-term BOF member and 40+ year Bristol Bay fisherman; Hallie Bissett of Anchorage, executive director of the Alaska Native Village Corporation Association; John Gimarc of Anchorage, a retired Air Force veteran who worked as a systems analyst for the Anchorage Municipality and owner of Quilt Zone, a retail shop; Robert Ruffner of Soldotna, owner of Alaska Resource Solutions and a former vice-chair of the BOF from 2016-2019; and Timothy Anelon, an Iliamna Village Council director and Environmental Protection Agency coordinator.