University land grants in limbo until next session

Objections from Southeast communities removed 10,000 from original measure

Posted: Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Alaska Legislature's two houses failed to reach a compromise over the Murkowski administration's controversial university land grant bill before they adjourned their regular session.

The Senate voted 12-7 Tuesday night to pass the bill. Because it contained several key differences from the version approved by the House on April 21, the Senate sent it back to the House floor for concurrence.

The House did not vote on the bill Tuesday night, however, meaning it cannot be taken up until the next regular legislative session.

As originally proposed, the governor's bill involved granting the University of Alaska 260,000 acres of state land scattered throughout Alaska.

Due to vociferous objections to the land grants, mostly from Southeast Alaska communities, about 10,000 acres were removed from the original bill during committee review.

Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, spearheaded some revisions to the bill but voted against it because he said the public wasn't given an adequate role in the state's land selection process.

The state selected lands for the university that conflict with local land-use plans and could have an adverse effect on borough formation, Stedman added.

All of the communities in Stedman's district opposed the land grant bill.

Sens. Charles Huggins and Lyda Green spoke in favor of the bill, saying the state Department of Natural Resources has taken adequate steps to protect community needs.

Stedman and Sens. Johnny Ellis, Kim Elton, Hollis French, Gretchen Guess, Albert Kookesh and Donny Olson voted against the bill.

One parcel was removed from the land list in the Senate version of the bill - the 60-acre Haines-Chilkoot parcel.

As originally proposed, Murkowski's bill included 260,000 acres in parcels scattered throughout Alaska.

Under the current Senate version of the bill, six parcels in Southeast Alaska and one at the Kodiak Rocket Range are slated for deletion from the university's land selections.

The House version of the bill deleted eight parcels in Southeast Alaska and the Kodiak parcel.

The Senate reinserted an 851-acre parcel in Pelican in the university's proposed land selections, but it cannot be conveyed to the university if it is included in a borough formed before July 2009.

Parcels in Idaho Inlet, Mite Cove, Beecher Pass, Favor Peak, Three Lake Road, Read Island, Whitney Island, Earl West Cove, Olive Cove and Thoms Place also may not be conveyed if they are included in a borough before July 2009, under the Senate bill.

Four of those parcels were not in the House bill.

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