Interested members of the public overflow multiple rooms to listen to a forum on Ballot Measure 1 at @360 Studio on Monday, Aug. 27, 2018. The forum was sponsored by the Juneau Economic Development Council, KTOO and the Juneau Empire. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Interested members of the public overflow multiple rooms to listen to a forum on Ballot Measure 1 at @360 Studio on Monday, Aug. 27, 2018. The forum was sponsored by the Juneau Economic Development Council, KTOO and the Juneau Empire. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Fish fight fills forum

• Empire, KTOO, JEDC host debate about fisheries initiative • Ballot Measure 1 will be decided in Nov. 6 general election vote

The question in November is about Ballot Measure 1, but the question in the room was something different: Who’s more Alaskan?

In front of a crowd that overflowed the KTOO-FM @360 studio, then overflowed the overflow room, Mike Satre of Greens Creek Mine and Emily Anderson of the Wild Salmon Center traded perspectives and rhetorical stingers about Alaska’s most contentious ballot measure since the 2014 referendum on oil taxes.

If approved by voters, Ballot Measure 1 would implement a tough new system of laws protecting salmon-bearing waters. It would become much more difficult for construction projects, including mines, roads and pipelines to get state permits needed to disturb those streams, rivers and lakes.

The discussion stayed away from the technical details of the eight-page ballot measure, which will appear on the Nov. 6 general election ballot. Instead, Satre (who has been campaigning against the measure) and Anderson (who has been doing the same for it), attempted to persuade attendees that their side best represented Alaska’s traditional values and will be beneficial for Alaskans in the future.

“This measure was ginned up and funded by Outsiders with no interest in the state,” Satre said after explaining his family’s lengthy history in Alaska.

Anderson countered with her own story and connection to Alaska’s fisheries.

“It’s a little hypocritical to say we should think about where the stream of money should be coming from,” she said, referring to the millions of dollars being spent by oil, gas and mining companies to defeat the measure.

Monday night’s event was recorded for a Friday TV broadcast on 360 North and online at juneauempire.com. It will also be broadcast on the radio at 7 p.m. Monday on KTOO-FM, and will also statewide public radio. It was the first major statewide forum on the topic since the primary election and was hosted by the Juneau Empire, KTOO and the Juneau Economic Development Corporation.

Empire reporter Kevin Gullufsen and CoastAlaska news director Jacob Resneck hosted the event, which allowed members of the audience to ask questions of Anderson and Satre. Back-and-forth discussion between the two was limited to a handful of rebuttal segments.

Mining and petroleum drilling employs more than 12,000 people in Alaska, and the mining sector pays an average monthly wage of more than $14,000 per month, according to figures from the Alaska Department of Labor.

If the ballot measure passes, Satre said some of that economic gain could be endangered.

Drawing on his experience at Greens Creek, he said that some mining projects cannot advance, even when well-designed, without permanently damaging or destroying fish habitat.

Existing projects compensate for that loss by restoring or preserving larger sections of habitat elsewhere in a process called mitigation.

Ballot Measure 1 would forbid this kind of “off-site mitigation” and require projects to perform mitigation at the job site. Satre said that’s impossible for some work.

“We don’t need a state initiative that will effectively stop mining activities because of that poison pill,” he said.

Later, he added, “For us, the No. 1 thing that causes problems is the inability to use off-site mitigation.”

Anderson admitted that some projects will not be possible under the Ballot Measure 1 protections, saying, “I think many existing operations will be able to meet the standards set.”

She said the goal of the measure is to “restore the balance that has been eroded … since the time of statehood,” and Ballot measure 1 creates that balance.

“It’s a false choice to say you have to pick one or the other. You can have both,” she said.

Alaska’s habitat protection rules are based on regulations, not statute, and Satre admitted that existing law is “somewhat vague.”

The arguments over Ballot Measure 1 arrive at an auspicious moment for Alaska’s salmon industry. On Thursday, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced that this summer’s commercial catch is 31 percent below preseason forecasts. Only a banner Bristol Bay year prevented an even worse shortfall.

In some places, returns have been apocalyptic enough that Gov. Bill Walker has already declared a disaster.

At the forum, Satre said there is no doubt about climate change, global warming and ocean acidification.

“Our world is changing on a day by day basis, probably faster than any of us thought possible,” he said.

That said, the problem is in the ocean, not in the freshwater habitat ashore, he said, and that is what Ballot Measure 1 addresses.

Attendees at Monday’s forum included those for and against the measure, but none interviewed by the Empire said their minds had been changed by the forum.


• Contact reporter James Brooks at jbrooks@juneauempire.com or 523-2258.


More in News

The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Aurora Forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of Feb. 5

Chunks of ice break off the Perito Moreno Glacier, in Lake Argentina, at Los Glaciares National Park, near El Calafate, in Argentina's Patagonia region, March 10, 2016. As glaciers melt and pour massive amounts of water into nearby lakes, 15 million people across the globe live under the threat of a sudden and deadly outburst flood, a new study finds. (AP Photo / Francisco Munoz)
Study: 15 million people live under threat of glacial floods

More than half of those are in just four countries: India, Pakistan, Peru and China.

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File 
A porcupine dines in mid-August near the Mendnehall Glacier.
On the Trails: Putting a finer point on porcupines

Plants such as roses and devil’s club aren’t the only prickly ones…

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan addresses a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature in the House chambers on Tuesday. The Republican senator, appearing on the same day as Democratic President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech (and thus absent from it), criticized the administration on issues ranging from drugs to opposing resource development in Alaska. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Sullivan applauds, denounces feds in speech to Legislature

Senator praises ferry funds and monitoring of China’s balloon, fears Biden limiting oil project.

Members of the Juneau Police Department pose for a group photo during the annual JPD awards ceremony on Monday. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
JPD honors officers in annual award ceremony

The late Chief Pat Wellington presented with legislative memoriam.

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire 
Edward Richards, left, a high school student in the Sitka School District, talks about the lack of mental health services in Alaska’s public schools as part of the testimony also offered by district Superintendent Frank Hauser, center, and student Felix Myers during a Senate Education Meeting on Monday at the Alaska State Capitol. The committee is proposing a 17% increase in the state’s school funding formula, which was remained essentially flat since 2017.
School’s in at the Capitol

Students and education leaders from around state make case for more classroom cash.

Folks at the Alaska State Capitol openly admit to plenty of fish tales, but to a large degree in ways intended to benefit residents and sometimes even the fish. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
The bizarre bills other state legislatures are considering

Alaska’s Legislature isn’t mulling the headline-grabbers some statehouses have in the works.

Most Read