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CIFF to argue state costs in fisheries lawsuit

Posted: July 15, 2014 - 9:49pm

The Cook Inlet Fisherman’s Fund will not have to repay the state Department of Law for costs associated with the lawsuit about 2013 management of Cook Inlet salmon fisheries at this time.

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Andrew Guidi vacated his prior order requiring the fishing group to pay a portion of the state’s costs and issued a July 9 ruling that gave the fishing group, or CIFF, 15 days to review the itemized breakdown of the Department of Law’s costs and respond. Then, the Department of Law will have five days to respond to the group.

CIFF asked for reconsideration June 30, and in a July 7 motion asked to provide supplemental information, noting that the department had not provided the itemized breakdown of costs until after Guidi ruled in favor of the department’s request for partial reimbursement.

Guidi had ruled June 25 that CIFF had to pay the state Department of Law $12,924 for representing the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. That was 20 percent of the state’s costs in the lawsuit, according to information provided by the Department of Law.

The state estimated its costs in defending ADFG at $65,737.50, mostly for work on the case done by Assistant Attorney General Mike Mitchell and Senior Assistant Attorney General Lance Nelson.

The memo details how Mitchell and Nelson used their time, including reviewing and drafting memos and briefs, talking to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, reviewing fishery data and communicating with other parties in the suit.

According to the itemized breakdown, Mitchell spent 174.8 hours on the case, and Nelson worked on it for 112.4 hours.

CIFF sued ADFG in July 2013 asserting that the department did not follow Cook Inlet salmon management plans appropriately, and caused harm to commercial fishers.

Guidi ruled in favor of Fish and Game in June. He wrote in his final decision that there was no evidence that ADFG had “exceeded its authority in executing the emergency plan promulgated by the Alaska Board of Fisheries. Specifically, the Fund has failed to articulate any concrete way in which the Department overstepped its management authority other than the claim — already rejected on motion for preliminary injunction — that the Fund’s fishermen were entitled to 51 hours of extra fishing time by law.”

CIFF has appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court. Before briefs are filed, the record in that case must be prepared; that is still pending.

CIFF is also engaged in a lawsuit over the federal decision to relinquish oversight of the Cook Inlet salmon fisheries by formally removing them from the federal Fishery Management Plan.

Oral argument in that case was heard in federal district court in May. The fishing group that brought the suit forward and the federal defendants have had the opportunity to provide certain additional information to the court since the hearing, and a ruling is pending.

Molly Dischner can be reached at molly.dischner@alaskajournal.com.

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