Stand for Alaska


By Dave Marquez

 

 Stand for Alaska logo

 

Don’t stand for misleading and harmful ballot measures

 

At first, Alaska Ballot Measure 1 sounds like a great idea, and its backers probably hope you give it nothing more than a passing glance.

Because when you compare what Ballot Measure 1 — sometimes called Stand for Salmon — claims to do, with what it actually does, you’ll understand why this proposal is reckless and harmful to Alaska. While its intentions may be admirable, its actual effects will be costly and harmful to Alaskans and to our communities.

Ballot Measure 1 will make it more time consuming, costly and, in some cases impossible, to acquire and renew the many permits needed to build and operate essential facilities that many Alaskans take for granted. Our airports, water treatment facilities, roads, bridges, docks, hydroelectric facilities and many more already require extensive permitting from state and federal authorities. Nearly all of these would be negatively impacted if this ballot measure becomes law.

Why? Because if this initiative passes, it will impact any permit or permit renewal near fresh water on the assumption that all waters in Alaska are anadromous fish habitat. And the ballot measure goes well beyond major bodies of water to include any seasonal water, ground water and any surrounding land that directly or indirectly contributes to fish habitat.

And if you think this measure is limited to just salmon, take a closer look. The list of “anadromous fish” in Alaska includes more than 20 types of fish, such as char, whitefish, sturgeon, salmon, trout, smelt and others.

These new rules are as unnecessary as they are burdensome because we already have comprehensive, tough regulations on the books protecting our environment, fish and wildlife. The Department of Fish and Game already documents water bodies that are known to support fish and publishes a catalogue and clearly spells out the rules.

Not only will Ballot Measure 1 make it harder to renew permits for existing operations and facilities, but it will make it incredibly difficult or impossible to construct new projects that benefit Alaskans, our economy and local communities.

Recently, the Alaska Legislature convened a hearing of state officials to examine the costs and impacts of Ballot Measure 1. Among the findings:

  • The Department of Fish and Game representative testified that: “There is a significant impact from a cost perspective. Our estimate is about $1.3 million a year annually for at least five years.” And that’s just for staff and staff amenities.
  • The Department of Transportation & Public Facilities: Stand for Salmon will “increase the delivery time of our projects” and “there’s some concern that this may trump some … safety concerns”

And the timing of this measure could not be worse. Alaska is in the middle of a recession, with the highest unemployment in the nation. We’ve lost more than 10,000 jobs in the past few years, and every lost job drives up costs to the state for social services.

Alaska came in dead last in a recent ranking of each state’s economies by U.S. News & World Report. Three major ratings agencies have downgraded Alaska’s credit, driving up our borrowing costs and making our bonds less competitive.

Sadly, in addition to the negative impacts to local communities, individual Alaskans and our economy, the ballot measure won’t do anything to increase salmon runs. Fish populations vary naturally year to year, typically due to offshore causes. Biologists have identified a number of trends, none of them relating to freshwater habitat, including short- and longterm ocean temperature changes, natural population cycles and competition for food out in the ocean.

What state biologists have found is that Alaska’s onshore freshwater fish habitat is doing just fine.

There’s no question that our fish and wildlife are some of the things that make Alaska special. Alaska needs tough policies that protect our environment, fish and wildlife today and far into the future. Alaska has one of the most robust and comprehensive permitting systems in the world, as well as world-class fisheries management.

This measure is dangerous for Alaska and does very little for our salmon. We need to make a smart choice for Alaska on Nov. 6: Vote No on Ballot Measure 1.

 

Dave Marquez is a former Alaska Attorney General; former chief operating officer of an Alaska Native corporation; former executive with ARCO Alaska; and former chairman of the Alaska Chamber of Commerce. Marquez lives in Juneau.