Bill lets state continue temporary water use practice

Posted: Sunday, March 17, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- The Department of Natural Resources would be able to continue issuing temporary water use permits without public notice under a bill that passed the House on Friday.

The Legislature voted last year to allow the practice, but put a one-year limit on the provision. House Bill 420 repeals that sunset provision.

Bob Loeffler of the Division of Mining, Land and Water said the department had been issuing the temporary permits without public notice for years, but environmental groups sued over the practice on the North Slope.

The bill that passed last year clarified that DNR's practice was legal.

Environmentalists opposed that part of the bill in 2001 and continued to oppose it this year. Sue Schrader of Alaska Conservation Voters said the permits are granted for up to five years, which the group does not see as a short-term use.

Environmentalists are concerned about potential environmental effects of the oil industry taking large quantities of water from North Slope lakes for ice roads.

The law requires DNR to consult with the Department of Fish and Game before issuing permits. Loeffler said the permits can be revoked at any time if a problem arises.

While controversy has focused on temporary permits for North Slope oil exploration projects, Loeffler said, most of the permits are for much smaller, short-term uses around the state.

The measure passed the House 35-1, with Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, voting no.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

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