Micciche bill would cut east-side setnet permits

Kenai Peninsula Sen. Peter Micciche has pre-filed Senate Bill 135 that aims to create a new administrative area and reduce Upper Cook Inlet east side salmon setnet permits in that area by as much as 40 percent of 2017 levels through a buyback program.

Entitled “An Act relating to the powers of the Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission; requiring certain setnet fishers to vote on the question of whether their entry permits shall be subject to a state buy-back program; establishing a buy-back program for certain setnet entry permits; providing for the termination of setnet site leases held by individuals who participate in the entry permit buy-back program; providing for a condition on future leases of certain state land; and providing for an effective date,” the bill aims to establish a new east-side setnet sub-district, apparently aimed at setnet fishermen who target sockeye and catch king salmon, both prized by sport fishermen in the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers.

In the bill’s “findings,” it states that “The Alaska Legislature finds that it is in the public interest to reduce the number of commercial setnet fishers on the east side of Cook Inlet.”

The bill amends Alaska statute to allow the CFEC to “modify or change the boundaries of an administrative area or divide an existing administrative area into two or more separate administrative areas when necessary and consistent with the purposes of this chapter,” instructing the CFEC to create the new east-side setnet district, carved out from the existing central district, “on Dec. 31, 2018.”

The bill does not establish where the lines will be for the new sub-district.

Also, the buyback would only apply to setnet fishermen who lease land from the Department of Natural Resources for their sites.

While the bill suggests buying back permits for $260,000 each, it also sets up requirements for the vote, including allowing a vote on whether or not the buyback should take place, what the boundaries should be, and what the price per permit should be.

It is unclear where the money would come from, but presumably the legislature would try to limit the cost to the state by trying to secure federal funds and funds from private groups that would like to see the buyback come to fruition.

The buyback would be completely voluntary if the permit holders vote to go forward.

Cristy Fry can be reached at realist468@gmail.com.