Please read the “Stand for Salmon” proposed statute before you vote

I read with interest Hal Spence’s opinion piece in the Aug. 30 Homer News. I appreciate Hal’s effort to ensure our wonderful salmon are protected. He makes some good points in his article, but doesn’t present a completely accurate picture of the potential impact of the proposed statute that will be on the ballot as Proposition 1.

I encourage all voters to take the time to read the proposed statute before going to the polls. Interestingly, the actual statute is not available on the “Stand for Salmon” website, but it is available on the “Stand for Alaska – Vote No. on 1” website.

At the Kenai River festival this summer a young woman spoke to me about the proposition, telling me that it was just an effort to update an old outdated law. My curiosity was piqued so I found a copy of the actual statute and read it for myself. I was disappointed to learn that the facts are quite different from what is presented by the supporters of the proposition.

Mr. Spence wrote that the proposition will, “…define what ‘anadromous fish habitat’ actually means….” It does, but the definition is so broad and general that it will potentially include all waters in the state. Sec.16.05.871 (b) states “The commissioner shall specify in regulation anadromous fish habitat.” The proposed statute continues in paragraph (c) of the same section “In the absence of a specification under (b) or a site-specific determination by the department under (e) of this section, the commissioner shall presume that a naturally occurring permanent or seasonal surface water body, including all upstream tributaries and segments is anadromous fish habitat if it is connected to anadromous waters specified under (b) of this section or connected to marine waters.” (Emphasis added). Paragraph (f) of the section is particularly concerning, stating, “In this chapter, “anadromous fish habitat” means a naturally occurring permanent or intermittent seasonal water body, and the bed beneath, including all sloughs, backwaters, portions of the floodplain covered by the mean annual flood, and adjacent riparian areas, that contribute, directly or indirectly to the spawning, rearing, migration, or overwintering of anadromous fish.”

The proposed statute addresses minor and major permits, but I could not find any language exempting vital infrastructure projects such as roads, airports, pipelines and sewer and water facilities. It appears to me that the proposition, if passed will delay or stop and add significant costs to all projects.

I want to protect salmon, but I am going to vote no on Proposition 1. It is too broad and general and has the potential to stop all development. Again, I encourage everyone to read and consider the actual language of the proposition before casting your vote.

Charlie Franz is a retired Army Colonel who served at Bassett Army Hospital in Fairbanks from 1993 to 1995, then moved to Homer in 1995 and served as the CEO of South Peninsula Hospital for 12 years, retired again and then was the Administrator of Heritage Place Nursing Home in Soldotna for 6 years. He says he is retired for good now and spends his time fishing, kayaking gardening and beekeeping.