Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion A commercial set gillnetting skiff runs out of the mouth of the Kasilof River as a crewmember lights the way with a flashlight during an overnight fishing period Thursday July 17, 2014 in Kasilof, Alaska.

Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion A commercial set gillnetting skiff runs out of the mouth of the Kasilof River as a crewmember lights the way with a flashlight during an overnight fishing period Thursday July 17, 2014 in Kasilof, Alaska.

State to appeal setnet initiative ruling

  • By Molly Dischner
  • Tuesday, August 5, 2014 11:03pm
  • News

The State of Alaska will appeal a state Superior Court decision that would permit a ballot initiative that could ban setnets in certain parts of the state.

The Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance, or AFCA, filed a ballot initiative petition in 2013 seeking to ask voters whether to ban setnets in urban parts of the state, which would primarily impact Upper Cook Inlet setnetters.

Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell rejected the initiative in January, based on a state Department of Law opinion asserting that it would be a prohibited resource appropriation not allowed under the Alaska Constitution.

In July, however, Anchorage Superior Court Judge Catherine Easter overturned Treadwell’s decision, and ordered the lieutenant governor to certify the initiative and allow proponents to continue the process of gathering signatures to get the question on the 2016 ballot.

The state will appeal Easter’s ruling. Department of Law Assistant Attorney General Cori Mills wrote in an Aug. 5 email that the state will appeal the decision.

“The State plans on appealing the Alaska superior court’s decision in the set-net ban initiative case (Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance v. State) once the final judgment is filed,” Mills wrote in an emailed statement. “Alaska’s Constitution requires sustainable and responsible allocation of our fisheries for the benefit of all Alaskans. The Alaska Constitution also prohibits use of the initiative process for appropriations, including appropriations of our resources. We believe the superior court erred in finding that the proposed ban on set-netting does not amount to an appropriation and look forward to presenting our arguments before the Alaska Supreme Court.”

Unless a stay is granted, which requires a separate motion, the initiative process will continue moving forward, Mills wrote in an email.

Matt Singer, legal counsel for AFCA, said the case should not delay signature-collecting to get the proposed ban on the ballot.

“I expect my client will proceed to collect signatures,” Singer said Aug. 5.

AFCA has said it is targeting the 2016 ballot. The organization must collect about 30,000 signatures before the question can appear on the ballot.

The Alaska Division of Elections prepares the signature packets, and once they are ready, the organization will have one year to collect the signatures.

In the meantime, the issue will go to the state Supreme Court, where the record must first be established before briefs are filed or any activity occurs in the case.

Singer said he expected the state Supreme Court to affirm Easter’s decision.

Singer has said previously that the organization believed the initiative is not an appropriation, and that the public’s right to weigh in on fish and wildlife management using the ballot initiative process should be interpreted broadly, with the appropriations limitation interpreted narrowly.

The state’s decision was welcome news, however, for the groups who opposed the initiative.

“We look forward to making our case to the Alaska Supreme Court,” Singer said Aug. 5.

East Side setnetter Andy Hall said it was good news for him personally, and that he also thought it was the right decision for the state.

“You really don’t want to open the door to ballot box resource allocation,” Hall said Aug. 5.

Hall said the initiative could be a disaster for the state, given its dependence on resource development and extraction.

“We don’t want to compromise that,” he said.

Molly Dischner can be reached at molly.dischner@alaskajournal.com.

Clarion file photo Justin Cramer, left, untangles sockeye salmon from a setnet with the help of Domino, a hired deckhand from California, right, Monday August 1, 2011 in Cook Inlet, near the mouth of the Kenai River. Cook Inlet setnetters have been targeted in a lawsuit by an organization seeking to ban the gear type in what it defines as "urban" parts of the state.

Clarion file photo Justin Cramer, left, untangles sockeye salmon from a setnet with the help of Domino, a hired deckhand from California, right, Monday August 1, 2011 in Cook Inlet, near the mouth of the Kenai River. Cook Inlet setnetters have been targeted in a lawsuit by an organization seeking to ban the gear type in what it defines as “urban” parts of the state.

More in News

COVID-19 (Image courtesy CDC)
State reports 3 more COVID deaths, more than 900 cases

The newly reported deaths push Alaska’s total to 594 COVID fatalities since the beginning of the pandemic.

In this July 1908 photograph provided by the U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office, the U.S. Revenue Cutter Bear sits at anchor while on Bering Sea Patrol off Alaska. The wreckage of the storied vessel, that served in two World Wars and patrolled frigid Arctic waters for decades, has been found, the Coast Guard said Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. (U.S. Coast Guard Historian’s Office via AP)
Coast Guard: Wreck found in Atlantic is storied cutter Bear

The ship performed patrols in waters off Alaska for decades.

The Federal Aviation Administration released an initiative to improve flight safety in Alaska for all aviation on Oct. 14, 2021. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
FAA releases Alaska aviation safety initiatives

The recommendations, covering five areas, range from improvements in hardware to data-gathering.

Kyle Kornelis speaks at a public meeting about the Runway 7-25 Rehabilitation Project on Tuesday, May 4, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna airport unveils revamped runway

Runway 7-25 was temporarily closed earlier this year while it underwent renovations.

Alaska Redistricting Board Director Peter Torkelson speaks at a redistricting open house on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska Redistricting Board Director Peter Torkelson speaks at a redistricting open house on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Redistricting proposals draw concerns from local residents

The state is seeking feedback on the best way to redraw the state’s legislative district boundaries in the wake of the 2020 census.

Signs advertising COVID-19 safety protocoals stand outside the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex on Oct. 6, 2020, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Ordinance seeks more funding for sports complex renovations

Approved for introduction by the Soldotna City Council during their Oct. 13 meeting, the legislation would put an extra $583,000 toward the project

Most Read