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HB 77, aka, the Silencing Alaskans Act

Posted: December 4, 2013 - 5:46pm

As a long-time Alaskan who has lived in Alaska since 1969, I will not be silenced by House Bill 77.  I firmly believe in the responsibility of citizens to engage in governmental decisions because we are part of the checks and balances on government. 

HB 77 is a corporate giveaway of citizens’ rights to participate in the permitting process under the guise of making the permitting process better.  Who will benefit? Large corporate mining companies, not citizens, not habitat and not wildlife.

Concentrating all decision making power with the
commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources is a huge change in citizen participation in government. This government appointee can choose to leave the public out of the process by not providing a public comment period and can ignore all general permit laws and rules essentially by edict. This is too much power for
someone we did not elect.

The public must retain the right to challenge bad governmental decisions. Yes, this may take time or cost a bit more, but if there is no public oversight, bad decisions that could harm habitat, wildlife, our drinking water, or our precious salmon can slide through at the stroke of a pen under the unprecedented powers vested in the DNR commissioner. This is dangerous for Alaska and Alaskans.  In the end, it will cost Alaska more.

The provision allowing the state to give away state land to private developers is naive. In a shrinking world of undeveloped natural resources and public land, giving it away without thought to specific required returns is completely irresponsible.

Wilderness is irreplaceable and must be managed carefully, not just given away to private interests in hopes that it will bring the state a return.

Finally, HB 77 would strip away the right of Alaskans to file for in-stream water rights to protect salmon. If the State will not stand up to protect our salmon streams and then takes away the right of residents to keep water in streams for our fish, we will likely see many of our salmon runs diminish over time.  

The Parnell administration’s HB 77 goes too far in trying to silence Alaskans, concentrate power in the DNR commissioner, ignore our laws, give away our state lands with no gain for the state, and allowing our in-stream fish habitat to be degraded.  HB 77 is a terrible step backwards away from good, balanced government. To paraphrase Lincoln’s memorable Gettysburg quote, I hope that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from Alaska.

Let the Parnell administration hear from you at the public hearing on Dec.10 at the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, 95 Sterling Highway in Homer. The stakeholder discussion is from 4 to 6 p.m., followed by a public hearing at 6 p.m.

Nina Faust is a retired high school teacher and long-time community activist.

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