Legislative salmon report still incomplete

Task force blames busy political season

Posted: Sunday, March 01, 2009

State legislators responded last year to complaints by sport anglers that commercial fisherman were intercepting too many salmon and too few fish were making it to the Susitna River drainage and other popular fishing streams in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

Lawmakers passed a resolution that blasted state agencies for failing to provide a comprehensive management strategy. They also created the Cook Inlet Salmon Task force to investigate.

Findings and recommendations were to be released Jan. 20, the first day of the legislative session in Juneau. However, the task force chairman says other issues got in the way.

"I don't think we had enough meetings, honestly, because of the two special sessions and the inability to get a quorum," said Rep. Craig Johnson, R-Anchorage.

Members could make guesses, he said, but that was not the purpose of the task force.

The House granted the task force a 30-day extension for the final report but no findings had been issued by Thursday. Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, said a report is likely to be out within the next week.

"The bottom line is the job didn't get done the way it should have gotten done, and I take full responsibility for that," Johnson said. "But I think we can do it, I think it needs to be done."

The task force was charged with addressing the lack of fish and issuing specific proposals.

"None of the members brought forth recommendations," Johnson said. "I think there are a lot of questions that were formulated in the task force."

"We just don't have enough data," Wielechowski said. "We don't have enough data on what the true impact is."

One senator is proposing to keep the task force so it can finish its mission.

"I think we're incomplete in the gathering of information," Sen. Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla.

Johnson said he hopes members can continue to meet. He has introduced a bill that would extend the deadline of the report, with recommendations, to March 2010.

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