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Letter to Governor Sparks Outrage in Mat-Su

Published On: Jan 07 2014 11:06:48 PM AKST   Updated On: Jan 07 2014 11:27:36 PM AKST

A controversial resources bill is generating debate among leaders in the Mat-Su Valley.

House Bill 77 is part of the state’s multi-year effort to streamline the State of Alaska’s permitting system.

According to the Department of Natural Resources, the legislation would prevent private entities from trying to hinder the use of state waters by a business, municipality or individual Alaskan.  It would also create bounds for individual permits where none existed.

The Mat-Su Borough’s Fish and Wildlife Commission wrote Governor Parnell December 16 expressing concern about the legislation.

"When we wrote our letter, we directed our comments almost exclusively to fishery issues," said Acting Chairman Larry Engel.

Engel, and other opponents such as former Mat-Su Assemblyman Warren Keough, are worried HB77 would deprive salmon of enough water to survive and spawn. 

Borough Mayor Larry Devilbiss wrote a letter supporting the legislation on December 23, drawing the ire of Keough at Tuesday night’s meeting.

"The mayor is overstepping his responsibilities that are outlined in the code, and our borough policy as well, as with portions of House Bill 77 itself,” said Keough.

According to borough code, the mayor can only sign documents on behalf of the borough with Assembly authorization.

In his letter, Devilbiss says he injected himself into the debate because the assembly twice rejected signing onto the letter penned by the Fish and Wildlife Commission.

"I think the assembly would have preferred to stay out of it completely, but our board of Fish and Game was influenced by just hearing one side of the story."

Devilbiss says sponsors of the legislation will be meeting with borough officials soon to educate them on the bill and answer their questions.