Salmon protections subject of hearings

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) Three days of hearings began Saturday on House Bill 199 designed to protect salmon habits in the state.

    The house fisheries committee heard from testifiers across the state mostly in favor of the bill.

    Frederick Olsen of Ketchikan was among the supporters, "It is time we stop treating our state as a colony.  We have rights.  Please stop making excuses for temporary companies that make permanent impacts on our lives.  We can't take nature for granted anymore."

    Laura Mastrella of Haines said she supported the Stand for Salmon Initiative and this bill, which if enacted, could eliminate the need for a public vote.  "Whichever offers stronger protection for salmon habitat.  I feel habitat protections protect my job and my kids jobs."

    Brian Lynch of Petersburg said salmon is a big part of their economy.  He says they must protect salmon spawning areas to the highest
    level possible.  He said this year some of the most stringent harvest limits ever seen have been placed on various species of salmon this year.

    Some who testified were opposed as they objected to more governmental regulation.. 

    John Lambourne said mining has brought a lot of benefits to communities.  He added the current permitting process works, "I have seen the permitting process to put in a mine go from 18 months to 18 years.  It looks like that time frame is well on its way to 30 to 40 years.  That time lag is not because the mining industry is fraught with environmental disasters.  We are an industry that has been diligent, forward looking who have worked with government agencies to build mines that are not prone to environmental disasters.  Based on our history, we have done a very good job."

    He said two mines in Juneau were strongly opposed when they began but are now pillars of the community.

    Summers Cole a gill netter from Juneau, submitted a letter signed by 2 hundred commercial fishermen in favor of the bill, "It is easy to get mired in the politics,  but something that connects all user groups in Alaska is that more salmon returning to their native streams is good for everybody."

    Hearings before the Fisheries Committee continued on Monday and Tuesday.

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