Alaska’s congressional delegation spoke up about state politics on Saturday, urging Alaskans to vote against a controversial salmon habitat protection measure up for a vote Nov. 6.
U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowksi and Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young all spoke against Ballot Measure 1 at a statewide public call-in testimony in Anchorage.
Not counting the Republican delegation, testimony from citizens favored the Stand for Salmon measure by a count of 22-12.
Murkowski said the measure, which changes permitting requirements for development on anadromous fish habitat, will hurt the economy and would not help Alaska’s beleaguered salmon runs. Salmon are suffering in the ocean environment, not in freshwater systems, Murkowski said.
“We are looking at a solution that will not address the problem,” Murkowski said.
Sullivan invoked the solidarity of Alaska’s elected representatives in opposing the measure.
“All senior elected officials, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, the entire congressional delegation, the governor, many of our top state legislators or elected state senators and members of the house, all are opposed to this measure because we would see what it would do to our economic future, jobs and our families,” Sullivan said.
Young said the measure would hamper development so severely that, should it pass, Alaska would look more like it did in its days as a U.S. territory.
“It will stop Alaska dead in its tracks. … It will become a territory again,” Young said.
The 85-year-old congressman also took a shot at lawyers, saying “we have too many of them already” and Ballot Measure 1 would hamper development by tying it up in the courts.
Public testimony skewed in favor of the ballot measure.
Many on both sides of the issue decried out-of-state influence on initiative process. Mining and oil and gas companies have donated millions to opposition group Stand for Alaska, which has raised $11.5 million through Oct. 5, according to reports filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission.
Initiative backers Stand for Salmon have raised $1.3 million through the same date, some of it coming from out-of-state.
“I think it would be a tragedy if we allowed corporate interests to make decisions for us,” said one Anchorage supporter.
Ballot Measure 1 creates different permitting paths for differently sized projects built on anadromous (e.g. salmon) fish habitats. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game could issue a general permit — a single permit that applies to many people — for certain activities.
The measure would establish a two-track permitting system, one for major projects and one for minor projects, for development that doesn’t qualify for a general permit.
Projects that pose a risk of “significant adverse effects” to anadromous fish habitat would be considered major, while ones that don’t have potential for significant harm would be considered minor.
Saturday’s call-in public testimony was the last in a series of public comment meetings held around the state and remotely. Responses have varied at different locations. Testimony in Juneau, Sitka and Dillingham has leaned for the measure, while testimony at an Anchorage forum was more even, according to media reports.
The State of Alaska records the public testimony and uses it to form a Frequently Asked Questions document about Ballot Measure 1, which is available at https://aws.state.ak.us/OnlinePublicNotices/Notices/Attachment.aspx?id=114005
The statewide general election is Nov. 6. Early voting in the Mendenhall Mall Annex opens Oct. 22.
• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinGullufsen.