Research reserve funding restored by Senate panel

The Senate Finance Subcommittee on Fish and Game last week restored $175,000 in operating funds for the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve. The budget now goes to the Senate Finance Committee. 

That committee held hearings last week at the Homer Legislative Information Office on the Operating Budget, House Bills 266 and 267. If the research reserve funding remains when the vote goes to the senate floor, a conference committee would need to meet to resolve differences with the House budget bill.

George Matz, chair of the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve, said the hearing had good local support.

“We are hopeful that support will continue all the way through the conference committee,” he said.

The House Subcommittee on Fish and Game had earlier cut that $175,000 in funding as part of reductions in the operating budget it had asked for from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. 

The research reserve is managed under the Sport Fish Division of Fish and Game. When the Operating Budget went to the full house, a $275,000 reduction was not restored for the Sport Fish Division, including the $175,000 cut to the research reserve.

While $175,000 is just 10 percent of the research reserve’s $1.7 million budget, it represents the state’s contribution to a partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the minimum amount under a NOAA grant the state is expected to kick in. If the state doesn’t make that contribution, the grant goes away.

Sport Fish Division officials said the division is not the best fit for the research reserve and before the House budget cuts were seeking to find a new state partner. 

Matz said Fish and Game has started talks with the University of Alaska Fairbanks as its new partner. UAF already is a partner in the Kasitsna Bay Laboratory with NOAA.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.