After a vigorous floor debate, the Alaska Senate has just voted 11-8 to pass a resolution creating a legislative task force to study Cook Inlet salmon fisheries.
Senate President Lyda Green, R-Wasilla, and other Mat-Su lawmakers want the task force because they believe salmon are disappearing from their streams. They suspect commercial fishermen working farther south in the Inlet are to blame.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 21 would establish a task force made up of five senators and five House members. The task force would hold meetings and report back to the Legislature by the start of the 2009 session.
A similar resolution is pending in the House.
Sen. Albert Kookesh, D-Angoon, said he worked his way through college on a commercial fishing boat. He said he worries the task force would set a precedent of legislators getting into the dicey business of allocating fish among users.
“We have scientists and biologists in this state who can do a better job than we can do,” he said.
Wasilla Republican Sen. Charlie Huggins, chairman of the Senate Resources Committee, said members need not fear the task force. He said Mat-Su waters he’s traditionally fished are now a waste of time because of a lack of salmon, and study is needed.
“This is about doing a report,” he said. “This is about a group of people getting together, hearing from experts, from stakeholders.”