The National Park Service has released a draft plan for disbursing $23 million to people, businesses and communities hurt by recent commercial fishing restrictions in Glacier Bay.
"This is strictly a proposal," said Tomie Lee, superintendent of Glacier Bay National Park. "We don't have a tremendous buy-in on any part. We are willing to change any part of that plan."
Pelican might get $774,000 out of the $3 million set aside to compensate communities. But Mayor Kathie Wasserman called it a short-term solution for a long-term problem.
"We've seen a horrible decline in everything due to declines in fishing, of which Glacier Bay is one," Wasserman said. "We have to look at the way our whole life is changing."
Communities near the bay are lobbying Congress for a larger compensation package.
"That seems like a first step," said Gerry Merrigan, director of the Petersburg Vessel Owners Association. "It's going to compromise working on the disbursement if you don't have the total package to start with."
Congress appropriated the compensation in 1999 after it closed some fisheries in the bay and began to phase out the remaining salmon troll, halibut and tanner crab fisheries over the lifetimes of eligible participants. The park began requiring lifetime access permits this month.
Individual compensation would be proportional, in part, to past earnings derived from Glacier Bay fisheries, according to the draft plan. Permit-holders, crew members and related businesses would have to show participation in a Glacier Bay fishery between 1989 and 1998 and proof of current participation in the fishing industry.
It's "just a grand opportunity to pit fishermen against fishermen," said Dale Kelley, executive director of the Alaska Trollers Association. "We still have concerns about the whole process just the fact that we're being kicked out of the bay, and we are quite concerned that the funds are limited."
Fishermen also are concerned the proposal doesn't compensate them for the loss in value to their boats, gear and permits, Kelley said.
The Park Service relied on an economic assessment by the McDowell Group of Juneau for the proportions of compensation among affected groups, such as commercial fishing permit-holders, crew members, processors, plant workers, marine-related businesses and communities.
Fishing-permit holders and crew members will get about 43 percent of the money and processors will get 25 percent. Plant workers will get about 6 percent and industry support businesses will get about 11 percent. Fifteen percent of the total will be reserved for communities. Juneau and Sitka will not be compensated because they are expected to absorb the economic displacements, the draft plan said.
The plan doesn't compensate future generations for the loss of economic opportunity, nor does it try to compensate people for the loss of a lifestyle. The legislation appropriating the funds doesn't allow for that, Superintendent Lee said.
The Park Service will hold public meetings in November and take comments on the draft until Nov. 30. An open house is scheduled for 3 to 5 p.m., followed by a public comment period from 7 to 9 p.m., Nov. 8, at Centennial Hall in Juneau.
Copies of the draft plan and the economic assessment are available by calling (907) 586-7027 or going to Hot Links at juneauempire.com.
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