Fishery advocates are hoping for the speedy delivery of a letter to state lawmakers that asks them to dust off a law pertaining to fish habitats.
Title 16, the statute that outlines the responsibilities of the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game when issuing development permits that could impact those resources, has not been updated for nearly 60 years.
“The law we have now, in terms of permitting projects in fish habitat, was written the year after statehood and it has not had any substantive updates since then,” said Lindsey Bloom of Juneau, one of a newly forming, diverse group called Stand for Salmon that is backing a review of the permitting process.
Last month the group proposed that the state Board of Fisheries send a letter asking the legislature to update the old statute, and the Board agreed.
Currently, the statute states that the commissioner of Fish and Game “shall issue a permit unless the activity is determined to be insufficient for the protection of fish and game resources.”
Bloom and others want to see the phrase “insufficient for the protection” more clearly defined.
“The language is vague and open-ended,” she said. “It doesn’t contain anything specific to what the proper protection of fish and game is.”
The scope and size of some of the development projects being proposed and considered today were not on the radar screen at Statehood in 1959.
“Large scale projects like Pebble and Susitna and Chuitna — anyone can see they are going to have significant impacts on fish and game. How do regulators in Alaska determine what the proper protection is?”
The Board wrote in its draft letter to the Alaska legislature: “The board recognizes the broad responsibilities of the Legislature to promote economic development and the wise stewardship of resources for all Alaskans. The board finds that clear delineation of Alaska’s unwavering promise to protect salmon and fisheries habitat establishes a consistent and predictable business environment that will help all individuals and corporations wishing to do business in Alaska.”
The Board of Fisheries is expected to give the letter a formal nod at its meeting next week in Kodiak.