Alaskans can take all day to question the unconfirmed appointees to the state Board of Fisheries at a September 3rd hearing at the Legislative Information Office in Anchorage.

“The meeting starts at 10 o’clock  and I have no end time.”  

Representative Louise Stutes of Kodiak convened the hearing for the House fisheries and resource committees.

 “The intent is to give the public the opportunity to ask these appointees their questions and to express their concerns, not only to this committee but on the record, so that their representatives or their senators have an opportunity to review their constituents’ comments prior to confirming these people. There’s   been some real concern and controversy over these members and I want to give the public an opportunity to respond.”

The appointees, made by Governor Dunleavy in April, would normally go through a vigorous vetting process by the Alaska legislature and the public. But COVID-19 sent lawmakers home early from the 2020 session, leaving the confirmation process in limbo.

Controversy surrounds Abe Williams of Anchorage, director of regional affairs for the Pebble Mine and a Bristol Bay fisherman, and McKenzie Mitchell of Fairbanks, a sportfish guide and adjunct economics and recreation Professor at the University of Alaska/Fairbanks.

Both will be voting members when the Fish Board begins its meeting cycle in October to focus on Prince William Sound and Southeast issues.

“And that’s a that’s a concern because as we all know, the Board of fish is a very serious board to be a member of. They make some significant decisions that affect a lot of people’s livelihoods. And to have these appointees have the ability to have a bona fide vote before they are confirmed by the legislature is problematic. I think that they should be confirmed prior to being allowed to sit as a full board member.”

It’s also a concern that all but one of the seven board members, John Jensen of Petersburg, live far from Alaska’s coasts.

And despite two months advance notice, Mitchell has indicated she might not make the hearing because she will be working as a sportfish guide at a Kodiak camp, although it is a short boat or float plane ride into Kodiak where she can access reliable connections to the Anchorage hearing..

If the governor calls a special session to, for example, discuss Covid relief fund distributions, he could add the board confirmations to the agenda. If not, the names must be re-nominated by Dunleavy next session.

Meanwhile, they will be voting Fish Board members.

Stutes will have links and numbers for the Sept. 3 hearing posted soon. You can send comments on the Fish Board appointments to housefisheries@akleg.gov.

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