Fisheries Projects Escape Governor’s Vetoes

By Bob Tkacz

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell vetoed just 2.8 percent from the $12 billion total state budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 and not a penny came out of fisheries projects.

“There were no vetoes to ADF&G’s FY 11 capital or operating budgets,” wrote Tom Lawson, the Dept. of Fish and Game’s budget manager, in a June 4 email. Beside leaving the department’s $65.3 million operating budget alone Parnell’s veto pen also bypassed tens of millions of dollars in hatchery, harbor and other fisheries support projects.

Facing tough primary and potentially general election battles, Parnell cut $36 million from an almost $8 billion state operating budget and $300 million from the $3.1 billion capital projects budget approved by lawmakers in April.

At a June 3 news conference Parnell noted his support for the regional salmon hatchery system, which received a total of $4.5 million in state funding. Salmon ranching support included $2.3 million for the Prince William Sound Regional Aquaculture Association, $1 million for the Cook Inlet RAA, $700,000 for the Northern Southeast RAA and $500,000 for the Kodiak RAA. The Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery in Seward received $150,000 for “repairs and upgrades.”

The nearby Alaska Sealife Center received $1 million for intake pipes and biofouling remediation.

Parnell said he considered vetoing $750,000 to pay for a National Science Academy study of the impact of a mega-mine project in the Bristol Bay watershed. “That one for me was a tough one, because on the one hand I don’t want to damage the permitting process by setting up a system where, every time legislators oppose a particular project they go get an appropriation to try to make it part of the permitting process and try to use it for delay,” Parnell said.

The state mine permitting project focuses primarily on environmental issues, and Kodiak Rep. Alan Austerman sought the money for an analysis of possible socio-economic impacts of the Pebble gold mine project, or any other supersize mine project in the region. With mine industry lobbyists, Parnell’s Dept. of Natural Resources worried during legislative hearings that the study would foul the permitting process but the governor said in June that he “received assurances” from the department that the permitting system would not be affected.

Large and small ports and harbors around Alaska’s coasts got tens of millions of dollars for expansion and repairs. Docking facilities in Old Harbor and Port Lions, both on Kodiak Island, got $3.1 million and $1 million, respectively for upgrades. The Seward Marine Center is to receive $1.5 million for new mooring dolphins and dock improvements and Chignik’s small boat harbor will see $1.4 million in upgrades. The Hoonah and Homer harbors each are slated for $1 million in repairs.

Among larger marine and transportation facilities important to the seafood industry, the Port of Anchorage will get $20 million, the Bristol Bay Borough Port will get $5 million for port repairs and the Kodiak airport will receive $36 million in federal pass-through funding for improvements.

Aside from some $2 million in salmon research and remediation funding in the ADF&G budget, the Bering Sea Fishermen’s Association will receive $1.125 million for its sustainable salmon initiative in the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim region and the western Alaska canned chum and herring demonstration project is in line for $300,000 in state assistance.

At the opposite end of the state, the cit of Craig, on Prince of Wales Island, will receive $200,000 to upgrade its community cold storage and fish processing facility.