Helping fishing group with lawsuit would be poor use of borough funds

Posted: Monday, March 01, 2004

I attended the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting on Feb. 17. I listened to the Cook Inlet Fisherman's Fund, which claims that the state of Alaska has financially damaged them by placing restrictions on their commercial fishing like it has done to many other fishery uses.

The Cook Inlet Fisherman's Fund incorrectly claims:

1. Alaska is to blame for their loss of fisheries jobs and the waste of fish which the state won't let them catch.

2. Alaska is not managing its fisheries biologically because a rotting salmon is a wasted salmon.

3. Alaska limited entry permits are by law "property" and not a "privilege" granted by law.

4. That because limited entry permits can be bought and sold and used as collateral, that they are essentially property.

5. Restrictions by the Alaska Board of Fisheries constitute an uncompensated "taking of their property."

6. Everyone should support House Bill 396 so that limited entry permits may be declared "property."

The bottom line of the presentation was that Alaska has financially damaged them and they are looking for "financial revenge." Within this financial revenge, the group asked the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly to just agree with its incorrect damage claims and help fund the "Just Compensation" lawsuit against Alaska.

This Cook Inlet Fisherman's Fund vs. Alaska lawsuit has a $500,000 goal figure of which the commercial fishing group claims to have secured $335,000. The group now expects the other $165,000 to come in the form of Kenai Peninsula Borough tax dollars.

Reality claims:

1. Alaska is not to blame for the worldwide reduction in the price of fish; fish farming may be.

2. Fishermen need to learn that our marine eco systems require lots of rotting fish nitrogen to remain healthy.

3. Limited entry permits are by Alaska law "not property." Please try reading AS 16.43.150.

Terms and Conditions of Entry Permit; Annual Renewal. The Alaska Legislature declared that a limited entry permit and the "privileges" it carries "would not be the property of its holder." AS 16.43.150(e) provides that a limited entry permit is merely: "a use privilege which may be modified or revoked by the legislature without compensation."

5. Since AS 16.43.150(e) clearly states that these permits are not property it is therefore not

legally possible for an "uncompensated taking of property" to have taken place.

6. It does not seem to matter to the Cook Inlet Fisherman's Fund that points 3 and 4 conflict with point 6. Why would we need HB 396 to declare these permits to be property if they are already property like points 3 and 4 claim?

One may ask how so many people could spend so much time ( 2000-2004 ) collecting so much money for a lawsuit and not spend the 10 minutes necessary to look up the applicable Alaska statutes?

It appears very clear to me that the group's legal battle plan lacks legal foundation. This legal attempt appears to be very flawed but once it fails within the courts, as part of the litigation,

the Kenai Peninsula Borough would be held accountable to pay much of the substantial fees and costs of the state.

I believe it would be very unwise for our borough tax dollars to be used within this litigation.

Don Johnson, Soldotna

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