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Guest Post: Ballot Measure 1 will hurt coastal Alaska, renewables, and fisheries

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Can you name one person in Alaska who actually opposes having healthy salmon populations? I certainly cannot. Ballot Measure 1, better known as the ‘Stand for Salmon’ initiative is taking our eye off what we really need to do to boost and maintain Alaska’s wild salmon stocks – and help our coastal communities.

For some, this is feel-good legislation. But it is expensive, do-no-good legislation. I’m voting against it. Here are five key reasons:

  • Ballot Measure 1 is an invitation for continuous lawsuits against Alaska’s largest employer, the very same fishing industry the measure’s promoters say they are trying to protect. Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) and the Alaska Department of Law read the proposed law to name all waters up to three nautical miles offshore as anadromous fish habitat. This measure could require a fish habitat permit for any projects or activities within those waters. That unnecessarily burdens commercial fishing boat operations, processors, salmon hatcheries, the Alaska Marine Highway and other contributors to our coastal economies.
  • While Ballot Measure 1’s advocates claim a new law is needed to protect fish habitat from developers, it will actually wipe out our current science-based management tools and replace them with overly rigid and expensive permitting processes throughout the state.
  • ADF&G will have to get new funds – or divert at least $1.3 million in existing funds – to enforce this silly approach. That money will come from monitoring, stock assessment, management and enforcement we need now – and in some cases, should grow instead – to really protect our salmon.
  • Alaska’s fish habitat is protected by over 15 state and federal laws already. We catalog anadromous streams and require protection or serious mitigation measures if a streambed is affected by any construction – a culvert, a piling, a bridge for example. Alaska remains a model and example of sustainable fisheries management and fish habitat conservation in the United States and around the world. If the system has been working for us since statehood, why break it?
  • Alaska’s power costs are high enough, and we continue to export year-round processing jobs to places with lower power costs. Hydropower and other renewable energy projects are key to making Alaska more competitive. That’s why the Alaska Power Association, a group representing hydro power utilities statewide, has come out in opposition due to the dire consequences the renewable energy sector would face under the new law.

Do not be fooled that this measure is aimed at the proposed Pebble Mine, other mines, or projects in the oil and gas industry. The list of those negatively impacted by this measure is virtually unlimited, which is why you’ve seen nearly every Alaska native corporation and trade association come out in opposition.

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Everyone in Alaska’s fishing industry in Alaska should be wary of this measure. Its funders, such as the Wild Salmon Center in Oregon, have nowhere near the stake in Alaska salmon that we have – and their bureaucratic approach is a “solution” in search of a problem. The Pacific Seafood Processors Association, Fishermen’s News, and other leading Alaska fishing organizations are opposed due to far reaching impacts imbedded in the language.

Alaska’s salmon towns are the backbone of our state’s resilient economy. I stood in solidarity with the people of Prince William Sound in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill and co-founded the Prince William Sound Science Center to promote the future and health of the region, its ecosystems, and fisheries.

Commercial fishing helped one of my sons pay for college. I’ve sport fished for salmon in bays, rivers, and streams statewide from Bristol Bay to the Kenai to Prince of Wales Island, near Ketchikan. As Deputy Commissioner of Environmental Conservation under Governor Hickel, and as Lieutenant Governor from 2010-2014, I have pushed for real measures to protect both environmental health and economic health here in Alaska.

We have a system that works, and we should not divert our resources. On November 6, I ask you to join me in voting no on Ballot Measure 1 for the sake of coastal communities, rural Alaska, and for sustainable economic progress.

Mead Treadwell is a former Lieutenant Governor of Alaska, former chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, recipient of the Alaska Sealife Center’s 2018 Lifetime Achievement Ocean Leadership Award, and co-Founder of the Prince William Sound Science Center in Cordova.

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Michael Jesperson

Well said Mead.

Michael Jesperson

Well Said Mead