Seawatch: Public questions Board of Fisheries nominee

Seawatch: Public questions Board of Fisheries nominee

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has nominated someone who could possibly be the most divisive member ever to the Alaska Board of Fisheries, retired Superior Court judge Karl Johnstone.

Johnstone has served on the Board before, from 2008 to 2015, when he stepped down after Gov. Bill Walker indicated that Johnstone would not be reappointed.

Dunleavy also appointed Marit Carlson-Van Dort of Anchorage, Gerad Godfrey of Eagle River, and reappointed Israel Payton of Wasilla. Robert Ruffner, the first Kenai Peninsula resident to serve on the board in over 20 years, applied but was not reappointed.

The Anchorage Daily News reports that three of the four nominees, Payton, Carlson-Van Dort and Johnstone, are ideologically aligned with board chair Reed Morisky, creating a polarized majority voting bloc supported by the Kenai River Sport Fishing Association. KRSA founder Bob Penney contributed at least $325,000 to Dunleavy’s campaign.

The House Resources and Fisheries committees took four hours of public comment on Monday, with people waiting for hours to give 90 seconds of testimony, most of it centered on Johnstone.

Rep. Louise Stutes of Kodiak summed up many of the objections to Johnstone when she told the committees, “I am morally and ethically moved to oppose his appointment.

“I want to see a balanced board — Mr. Johnstone represents a second Anchorage candidate, and fourth from Cook Inlet. His comments on aquaculture are alarming at best.”

She also referred to an opinion piece Johnstone wrote recently calling the commercial fishing industry out of date and no longer an economic force, suggesting the state should consider fish farming to regain global importance.

All this comes at a time when Homer Rep. Sarah Vance is launching an inquiry into a vote that the BOF took in January to not hold the next Upper Cook Inlet meeting in Kenai, after voting for it earlier.

The vote came as a surprise, with no public notice, at a meeting in Fairbanks with no UCI stakeholders present.

The board had previously settled on a rotation of holding the meetings in the Mat-Su, Anchorage and Kenai.

Vance has filed a public records request with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game requesting access to the internal communications and phone records of the chairman and members of the Board. She told Alaska Public Media, “The public has quickly lost trust in the process that has been designed to weigh their input, and I don’t blame them for that.”

Cristy Fry can be reached at realist468@gmail.com

More in News

Coast Guardsmen and state employees load the Together Tree bound for the Alaska Governor’s Mansion on a truck on Nov. 29, 2021 after the Coast Guard Cutter Elderberry transported the tree from Wrangell. (USCG photo / Petty Officer 2nd Class Lexie Preston)
Governor’s mansion tree arrives in Juneau

No weather or floating lines could stay these Coast Guardsmen about their task.

The Kenai Community Library health section is seen on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. The Kenai City Council voted during its Oct. 20 meeting to postpone the legislation approving grant funds after members of the community raised concerns about what books would be purchased with the money, as well as the agency awarding the grant. The council will reconsider the legislation on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai council to consider library grant again

The council earlier voted to postpone the legislation after concerns were raised about what books would be purchased.

EPA logo
Alaska Native group to receive EPA funds for clean water projects

The agency is handing out $4.3 million to participating tribal organizations nationwide.

fund
Study: PFD increases spending on kids among low-income families

New study looks at PFD spending by parents

Image via the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation
Nikiski soil treatment facility moves ahead

The facility, located at 52520 Kenai Spur Highway, has drawn ire from community residents.

Commercial fishing and other boats are moored in the Homer Harbor in this file photo. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Seawatch: Bycatch becomes hot issue

Dunleavy forms bycatch task force.

Rep. Chris Kurka, R-Wasilla, leaves the chambers of the Alaska House of Representatives on Friday, March 19, 2021, after an hour of delays concerning the wording on his mask. On Monday, Kurka announced he was running for governor in 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Wasilla rep announces gubernatorial bid

Kurka said he was motivated to run by a sense of betrayal from Dunleavy.

The Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson star is Illuminated on the side of Mount Gordon Lyon on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, just east of Anchorage, Alaska, in observation of the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. A crew from the base went to light the 300-foot wide holiday star, but found that only half of the star’s 350 or so lights were working, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Airmen from the 773rd Civil Engineer Squadron Electrical Shop haven’t been able to figure out what was wrong and repair the lights, but they plan to work through the week, if necessary, base spokesperson Erin Eaton said. (Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News via AP)
Avalanche delays holiday tradition in Alaska’s largest city

ANCHORAGE — A holiday tradition in Alaska’s largest city for more than… Continue reading

AP Photo/Gregory Bull,File
In this Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, photo, George Chakuchin, left, and Mick Chakuchin look out over the Bering Sea near Toksook Bay, Alaska. A federal grant will allow an extensive trail system to connect all four communities on Nelson Island, just off Alaska’s western coast. The $12 million grant will pay to take the trail the last link, from Toksook Bay, which received the federal money, to the community of Mertarvik, the new site for the village of Newtok. The village is moving because of erosion.
Federal grant will connect all 4 Nelson Island communities

BETHEL — A federal grant will allow an extensive trail system to… Continue reading

Most Read