Unsplash.com stock image.

Unsplash.com stock image.

Opinion: Vote no on 1

A yes vote is a vote for mob rule.

I urge a no vote on Ballot Measure 1, the so-called Stand for Salmon initiative. I have been involved with regulating development on shorelines for 50 years, mostly in Alaska and mostly in one government position or another. I know how projects can go off the rails — not because of the government — but because the government has provided a means for project opponents to interfere with, or outright stop, the process.

There is no on-land salmon habitat crisis in the Alaska. Recent conversations with people at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) bear this out and further indicate that changes in salmon populations are due to factors — many unknown — at sea.

The state has operated an effective permitting system to protect salmon habitat since the early 1970s. “Habitat” for salmon or any fish is the water they swim in as they feed and reproduce. Every stream in Alaska that is known to bear salmon is listed on a register maintained by ADF&G and if you want to do something in or adjacent to that stream, you need to get a permit from ADF&G. At that agency, the people who know the most about fish are the ones who regulate activity to prevent harm to fish or the waters they inhabit.

There is a lot wrong about the measure but I want to focus on the most dangerous aspect. The measure will empower the enemies of development with a lethal new tool.

The measure would give broad new powers to ADF&G to regulate development nearly everywhere in Alaska (because nearly everywhere, it drains to salmon streams). I am not worried that ADF&G employees and managers would abuse this power. Rather, I worry that decisions made by the agency will become fodder for lawsuits brought by anti-development organizations. This is because those organizations will not be content if the state or a local government makes a decision they don’t like. They will sue the government instead, and keep suing until they get what they want or finally lose at the Supreme Court.

Our regulatory system is based on giving notice of a pending application so that there is an opportunity for the public, either as individuals or groups, to comment on the matter and help the government make a better decision. The system is not designed to give those who comment on a project the power to deny the application. Approval or denial is the government’s job but the anti-development groups want that power and they obtain it by claiming in court that the government made a mistake. Such claims originating in Alaska end up at the Ninth Circuit Court in San Francisco where even the most spurious claims are often upheld for reasons too complex or murky to delve into here.

Recent court action on the Juneau Access Project provides a good example. During the environmental review started several years ago, an anti-road group demanded that the state include a senseless option on the list of alternatives to building a road. The state was studying several alternatives that involved increasing ferry service and the anti-road crowd said to include an alternative that would redeploy existing ferry resources to give more service to Juneau and reduce service to other communities. How would that affect Juneau’s popularity among its neighbors? The state said not a chance and did not include the option.

The anti-roaders took it to the Ninth Circuit and said that because the option was possible, it should have been evaluated and the court agreed. So, any decision made by ADF&G under Ballot Measure 1 is subject to the same second-guessing and disagreement. ADF&G can be counted on to do the right thing, but not anti-development groups. Measure 1 will give them plenty of opportunity to run this state instead of the people qualified and appointed to do that job. Vote no on 1. A yes vote is a vote for mob rule.

• Murray Walsh has held jobs for former Gov. Jay Hammond, the City and Borough of Juneau, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities as well as running his own consulting business. My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.

More in Opinion

Have something to say?

Here’s how to add your voice to the conversation.

(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Opinion: Playing the old-timer card

Is the Empire really only interested in the problems faced by small communities?

Heavy metals run out of the Tulsequah Chief mine opening and down to holding ponds next to the Tulsequah River Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2008. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file)
Opinion: Officials must keep up pressure to clean up BC mine

In March 2017 I had a Commentary published Pacific Fishing Magazine imploring… Continue reading

Former Gov. Bill Walker, right, and his running mate former commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development Heidi Drygas, speak to Juneauites gathered for a fundraiser at a private home in Juneau on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Why I’m voting for Walker

Walker is the only candidate with the potential to govern effectively for all Alaskans.

Opinion: The time has come to end Big Tech’s rule

The internet has opened doors and pathways to more than we could… Continue reading

Nick Begich III campaign materials sit on tables ahead of a May 16 GOP debate held in Juneau. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Nick Begich is who Alaska and America need now

It is in Alaska’s best interest to elect a member of the Republican party.

Opinion: If you see something, say something

Together we can fight to preserve this pristine place we live.

This photo shows the University of Alaska Southeast campus in Juneau. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: I’m a longtime educator, and I’m supporting Walker/Drygas

The issues our state faces are significant with regard to education.

Opinion: Congress could keep health insurance costs from rising, but it has to act fast

Some argue that the federal government paid out far too much money… Continue reading

Most Read