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Lt. Gov.’s denial of measure overruled: Judge rules pro-fisheries initiative is in line with state constitution

JUNEAU (AP) — An Anchorage judge has overruled Lt. Gov. Bryon Mallott’s rejection of a proposed ballot measure that calls for improved vetting of all construction projects that impact salmon streams, and attempts to declare all Alaska waterways as salmons streams unless proven otherwise.

Superior Court Judge Mark Rindner overruled Mallott on Monday, The Juneau Empire reported (http://bit.ly/2yc4LPZ). Mallott had declared the proposal unconstitutional based on his interpretation of specific appropriations, which is against the law for ballot measures.

Under the Alaska Constitution, the lieutenant governor must rule whether a proposed ballot measure follows the constitution. Mallott rejected the measure based on a legal stance by Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Bakalar, who decided the measure was so sweeping that it effectively allocates state waters to salmon fisheries.

Rindner, however, decided that the measure does not appropriate state waters to fish.

“(The measure) does not explicitly favor any particular use of anadromous fish habitat between recreational fishing, kayaking, commercial fishing, hatcheries, mining, pipeline or dams; it only concerns itself with the condition of the water,” Rindner stated in a court opinion.

The Council of Alaska Producers, which has been among several organizations that say the measure will effectively bar mining, drilling and construction projects that disturb salmon streams, backed Mallott’s denial. That’s largely because the future of Pebble Mine, the Susitna dam and any trans-Alaska natural gas pipeline could be impacted by the measure.

The state is considering an appeal of Rindner’s ruling, Bakalar said, but backers have the go-ahead to start gathering 32,127 signatures from registered voters by Jan. 16 to make the 2018 ballot. Alaska group Stand For Salmon, which appealed Mallott’s decision, is leading the charge in getting signatures.


Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com