House approves bill fighting ‘rock vomit’ and other invasive species

The Alaska House has voted 26-7 in favor of a bill that aims to fight invasive species in Alaska’s waters.

House Bill 38, brought by Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, allows the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to combat sudden outbreaks of invasive species that could endanger Alaska’s native wildlife.

Speaking on the House floor, he discussed Didemnum vexillum, better known as “rock vomit,” which has infested a small-boat harbor in Sitka.

Seaton said that if rock vomit spreads, it could choke Sitka’s famed herring roe harvests.

“We need to get ahead of it by planning, and this bill prioritizes invasive species over other management goals,” he said.

HB 38, if also approved by the Alaska Senate and signed into law by Gov. Bill Walker, would allow the Alaska Department of Fish and Game the authority to declare an invasive species emergency and shut down fishing to allow it time to clear the species from a particular area before fishing boats motor through the outbreak and spread it.

The bill also creates an emergency fund that allows Fish and Game to pay for cleanup operations when the Legislature isn’t in session to authorize the extra expense.

Seaton said the bill isn’t designed to combat invasive species that are already endemic; it’s intended to fight “the first outbreak.”

Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, spoke against the bill, saying she is concerned that if chemicals are used to fight an outbreak, they could have an impact that lasts much longer than the outbreak does.

“If we really want to take care of invasive species and do it right, we need to have a process,” she said.

Drinking water wells in North Pole have been under increased scrutiny since it was discovered that runoff from a nearby oil refinery contaminated them with sulfolane, a chemical whose long-term exposure effects are unknown.

In the Senate, lawmakers took up Senate Bill 124 and House Bill 93, passing each unanimously. SB 124 extends the Alaska Commission on Aging through 2024. HB 93, approved 36-0 in the House last year, allows paroled prisoners to travel within Alaska to seek work or as a condition of work (if hired as a truck driver, in one example).

The Senate approved an amended version of the bill 19-0, with one senator absent.

HB 93 will return to the House, where lawmakers will be asked to concur with the Senate’s changes. If Representatives approve, the bill will then go to the desk of Gov. Walker.

More in News

The Homer Spit stretching into Kachemak Bay is seen here on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020 in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Homer woman indicted over seaplane incident

Marian Tillion Beck was indicted on charges of negligent operation of a vessel and attempted interference with the navigation of a sea plane

Soldotna High School can be seen in this Sept. 2, 2021, photo, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion file)
‘Little Sweethearts’ family dance to debut at SoHi

The event will be hosted by SoHi’s freshmen student council

Soldotna City Council members interview city manager applicant Elke Doom (on screen) during a special city council meeting on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Doom, Bower named finalists for Soldotna manager gig

The two will visit Soldotna for in-person meetings on Feb. 7 and 13, respectively

The northern fur seal rescued by Alaska SeaLife Center staff is seen on Jan. 31, 2023, at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Kaiti Grant/Alaska SeaLife Center)
Northern fur seal pup admitted to SeaLife Center rescue program

The pup was reported by Sitka residents using the center’s 24-hour stranding hotline

The Kenai Community Library children’s section is seen on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Literary competition returns to local schools

Battle of the Books aims to instill in kids a love of reading

Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire
Climate activists hold a rally outside the Alaska State Capitol Friday afternoon in advocacy for legislative action to improve Alaska’s renewable energy development and future sustainability.
Climate activists hold rally near the Capitol

Statewide organizations advocate for legislative action

Shanon Davis, the executive director of the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, hands out candy during the Sweeny’s St. Patrick’s Parade in Soldotna on March 17, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Davis to step down as Soldotna chamber head

Davis oversaw the implementation of Soldotna’s “Holding Our Own,” shop local program

Golden-yellow birch trees and spruce frame a view of Aurora Lagoon and Portlock Glacier from a trail in the Cottonwood-Eastland Unit of Kachemak Bay State Park off East End Road on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021, near Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong)
State parks advisory boards accepting applictions

Alaska State Park advisory boards provide state park managers with recommendations on management issues

Most Read