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Committee advances amended permitting bill

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 8, 2013 at 3:37 pm •  Published: April 8, 2013

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A state senator on Monday questioned the judgment of a Senate Finance Committee co-chair in advancing an amended version of a state permitting bill.

Sen. Donny Olson, D-Golovin, suggested co-chair Kevin Meyer's judgment may be "somewhat clouded" by end-of-session pressure to move bills. The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn Sunday.

HB77 has generated at-times intense discussion in the committee, particularly surrounding a provision that would remove the ability of individuals or groups to apply for water reservations to maintain or protect certain water levels for such things as fish habitat, recreation and water quality.

Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, has said he believes that's a constitutional right but Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan has said state attorneys are confident in the provision's constitutionality.

The bill, from Gov. Sean Parnell, is aimed at improving the permitting process and deals with things such as land exchanges and permitting procedures. Critics say it could hurt the public's ability to participate in permitting decisions.

The latest version of the bill, unveiled Monday, would allow for a feasibility study for a hydroelectric project at Chikuminuk Lake within a southwest Alaska state park. It includes language similar to a bill earlier proposed by Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage.

A 2002 management plan referred to the lake as one of the most scenic and remote in the park. It had been studied in the past as a possible hydro-power site with distribution lines running to Bethel but studies found such a project would not be economically feasible, the management plan says.

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