Capitol Live: House discusses new hydro project near Bristol Bay

Capitol Live: House discusses new hydro project near Bristol Bay

Live updates from inside the Capitol.

11:25 a.m.

This is pretty fun. The Department of Labor released its Economic Trends 2019 booklet and featured a chart (on page nine) showing the size of each legislator’s district in comparison to other geographic areas. For example, Sen. Donny Olson’s district (Senate District T) is the size of Kenya.

For Juneau’s legislators: Rep. Sara Hannan’s district is the size of Massachusetts, Rep. Andi Story’s district is the size of Kings Canyon National Park in California and Sen. Jesse Kiehl’s district is the size of New Hampshire.

Other notables: Rep. Louise Stutes’ district is the size of Austria, Sen. Gary Stevens’ district is the size of Hungary, Rep. Dave Talerico’s district is the size of Poland.

— Alex McCarthy

10:52 a.m.

Now they’re hearing HB 105. Rep. Dan Ortiz is presenting it.

“The fisherman’s fund, this particular bill was heard by the fisheries committee last year and it passed out of the committee last year so it’s a repeat of that particular bill… it’s based on the fisherman’s fund itself which was created in 1951,” Ortiz says.

He says it’s created by fisherman for fisherman from a portion of the license fee. It’s essentially a payer of last resort, Ortiz says. He says this fund is self-funded by the fisherman themselves.

Keeping the fund sustainable for future generations is of paramount importance he says, and the passage of this bill won’t affect the sustainability of the fund.

The current value of the fund is $11.7 million, says Liz Harpold, one of Ortiz’s staff members.

“The increased burden is estimated to be an additional $16,000,” Harpold says regarding the vessel claims.

Vessel insurance is relatively high compared to shoreside employees, so this fund provides a way for fisherman to insure their employees.

— Mollie Barnes

10:21 a.m.

“This project has enormous potential,” Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage. He says he’s thankful for it because he’s paid a lot for fuel when he lived nearby.

This is the first reading of the bill that would allow the group to start studying the project to make necessary predictions.

— Mollie Barnes

10:03 a.m.

House Fisheries is discussing House Bill 99, which involves a hydro project near Bristol Bay. It’s an act relating to the development and operation of a hydroelectric site at the Nuyakuk River Falls.

Speaker of the House Rep. Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, says that this project is estimated to cost over $100 million, but the act’s language would allow the Nushagak Cooperatives to do the necessary studies for the project development.

“Our project pprososes this to be the power system for several of the Nuyakuk River and several of the northern Bristol Bay communities,” says Robert Himschoot, the CEO of Nushagak Cooperatives.

He says they have been meeting in communities to see if people were opposed to the project.

— Mollie Barnes

9:05 a.m.

It’s a quiet morning at the Capitol, but things are poised to heat up throughout the week with the House putting together its budget proposal.

Meanwhile, after a U.S. judge ruled that President Donald Trump exceeded his authority in reversing bans on offshore drilling, Gov. Mike Dunleavy expressed his displeasure last night with the decision.

“I am disappointed by this ruling and its implications for the state and national economy,” Dunleavy said in a release. “Alaska’s potential offshore oil and gas deposits, if given the opportunity to be safely and responsibly developed, can create jobs, revenue and economic opportunity for decades. One president should not have the power to lock up Alaska’s resources in perpetuity. America needs Alaska’s natural resources.”

Dunleavy, as you know, is in lockstep with Trump on almost every issue. The two seem to see eye-to-eye — even if Trump has to look up to the taller Dunleavy — on both policy and in leadership styles.

This issue is no different.

Shortly before leaving office in 2016, President Barack Obama issued an overreaching executive order preventing lease sales for 125 million acres in the Arctic Ocean around Alaska. A year later, Trump revoked that order, so lease sales could one day be held.

“We expect this decision could be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court and my office will participate in any way possible to see this decision overturned,” Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson said in the release.

— Alex McCarthy

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