Senate committee hears case for sockeye stamp

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct Sen. Bill Wielechowski’s political party. He is a Democrat from Anchorage.

A proposed sockeye salmon stamp would only apply to sportfishermen throughout the Kenai and Kasilof river drainages.

The Legislature, scouring for new sources of revenue, is entertaining the idea of a required sockeye salmon stamp for anglers on both rivers. As it currently stands, the stamp would cost residents $15 per year and would be $150 annually for nonresidents, with several temporary stamp options available. The Senate Resources Committee reviewed the measure, HB 137, for the third time on Wednesday.

The original bill, introduced last March by Rep. David Talerico (R-Fairbanks) did not include the sockeye salmon stamp, but subsequent amendments suggested it. The stamp would mirror an established program for king salmon stamps, even down to fees, according to the bill.

Though all sportfishermen would be required to have the stamp, Alaskans seeking to participate in the immensely popular personal use fisheries on the Kenai and Kasilof rivers would be exempt from the stamp, said Tom Brookover, the director of the Division of Sportfish for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

“The way I’m reading that, it would not apply to the personal use fishery,” Brookover said. “My initial read is that it would not.”

Sen. Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage), a committee member, asked if Fish and Game would be enforcing the stamps on the mainstem of the rivers or throughout the drainage.

“If you go to the Russian (River) … and you’re fishing in the Kenai, you can move 5 feet, and you’re in the river,” Wielechowski said.

Brookover said that as Fish and Game interprets the way the bill is currently written, the stamps would apply throughout the drainage for the two rivers, so there would be no demarcation between the Kenai and the Russian rivers.

Ricky Gease, the executive director of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, testified to the committee in support of the sockeye salmon stamp. He said the cuts to the state Department of Natural Resources and other agencies could hurt enforcement and management. He cited the Kasilof River as an example, where there are no fees that go to support portable toilets and cleanup.

“We would like to see the sockeye salmon stamp included both for personal use and sportfishing,” Gease said. “We see the impacts every day here and we definitely need some additional funding to offset the management costs.”

Ted Wellman, president of the Kenai River Special Management Area advisory board, testified in supported the sockeye salmon stamp. He said the stamp would provide revenue for enforcement and support of the park.

“In the past few years, the impact on the Kenai River has been substantial from the increased use,” Wellman said. “And with the decrease in state funding, we’ll need the money to help with enforcement activities and also for bank protection and rehabilitation on the river as many people on the Kenai River do so as a bank fishery.”

The Senate Resources Committee will consider HB 137 again at 3:30 p.m on March 28.

 

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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