Don't Cut Up our State Park for the Failing Tutka Bay Lagoon Hatchery!
House Bill 52 hurts the citizens of Homer. It hurts Cook Inlet fishermen. It hurts Alaska’s State Park System. And it hurts Alaskans.
Introduced by Representative Sarah Vance during the last legislative session, House Bill 52 (HB 52) removes Tutka Bay Lagoon and uplands–totaling 123.45 acres–from the heart of Kachemak Bay State Park.
This bill gives up these public lands to a narrow special interest group, the Tutka Bay Lagoon Hatchery (TBLH), setting a dangerous precedent for all Alaska’s State Parks.
HB 52 goes against the Draft Kachemak Bay State Park Management Plan and the extensive 7-year public process that created it. The Park Plan would relocate the hatchery out of the Park by 2031 and convert structures in the lagoon into “group camp facility.” HB 52 seeks to overturn this decision and the public process behind it.
Rep. Vance says that if we do not cut Tutka Bay Lagoon out of the Park, China Poot Dipnetting will shut down. This does not have to happen. She is using this popular fishery as political blackmail.
• This is happening now because:
1) Recent court decisions make it clear that State Parks cannot have long term contracts or leases with private entities (in this case, Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association/CIAA).
2) Since the last Park Plan was written in 1995, TBLH Pink salmon production has more than tripled, and DNR has said that current operations clearly violate the law defining the purpose of the Park–Alaska Statute 41.21.990.
• Sarah Vance is holding the China Poot Dipnet Fishery as ransom.
She says that if we do not cut Tutka Bay Lagoon out of the Park, China Poot Dipnetting will shut down. This does not have to happen. She is using it as political blackmail.
Remember that China Poot ran for 7 years when the hatchery was closed from 2004 to 2011. This is because the Reds are raised at the Trail Lakes Hatchery near Moose Pass. All that happens in the lagoon is a short-term “remote egg-take” and short-term “remote release” of China Poot broodstock. ADF&G can develop a Sockeye Stamp to cover costs. If Sarah Vance were acting in good faith, she would get behind this effort to keep China Poot alive. If Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association doesn’t want to run it, ADF&G should take over, just as they stock lakes all over the state.
• Moving the hatchery will help fishermen.
Lower Cook Inlet Commercial Fishermen do not depend on TBLH; 95% of the Lower Cook Inlet common property salmon harvest is elsewhere–in Kamishak Bay, on the Outer Coast, etc. Why? Since 1991, the hatchery has caught nearly all the returning fish, just to try to cover expenses, leaving an average of 11% of the returning fish for fishing families.
• HB 52 would permanently give up valuable public resources to a failing operation.
According to publicly available figures, TBLH has been losing approximately $600,000 per year since 2012 and they have lost about $9 million since CIAA started operations. There is no long range financial plan to turn things around. The Lagoon is a fundamentally flawed location for a hatchery. Deeper water, better freshwater input, and improved access are needed to make it self-supported.
• Who pays?
CIAA has $16 million of outstanding debts to the State, and part of their loans have been used at the TBLH facility.
All Cook Inlet fishermen pay for TBLH through the Salmon Enhancement Tax, yet only a handful catch Tutka fish. Closing the hatchery is a win for 97.5% of Cook Inlet fishermen.
Don’t cut up our Park for this failing hatchery! HB 52 hurts citizens of Homer, it hurts Cook Inlet fishermen, it hurts Alaska’s State Park System, and it hurts Alaskans.
HB 52 does not meet the Constitution’s requirement that Alaska’s lands and waters be managed “for the maximum benefit of its people” (Article 8, Section 2) or the requirement for “efficient development of aquaculture in the State” (Article 8, section 15).
Your Legislators Need to Hear from You
Tell Rep. Lousie Stutes, Speaker of the House, NO on HB 52.
The representative from Kodiak passed HB 52 out of the House Fisheries Committee in the Spring of 2021, but she didn’t have access to any information included here.
Tell Senator Gary Stevens NO on HB 52.
It is important to share the details of this issue before a bill hits the Senate.
Tell the House Resources Committee NO on HB 52.
This is the bill’s next stop.
Tell Sarah Vance NO on HB 52.
Vance is the bill sponsor.