Vance Takes Heat Over Tutka Bay Hatchery Plan

Apr 30, 2021

Rep. Sarah Vance during a virtual town hall meeting on April 28, 2020.
Credit KBBI

A bill to save the Tutka Bay Lagoon Hatchery from closing got a hearing this week in the House Fisheries Committee. HB52, sponsored by Homer Rep. Sarah Vance and co-sponsored by the peninsula’s other two house members, would declare the hatchery a “compatible use” in Kachemak Bay State Park.
    State Parks is seeking to force the hatchery to close, as outlined in its most recent management plan.
    But Wednesday night, Vance held a virtual town hall meeting where she said she’s been having conversations on what it would take to save the hatchery.
    “We know that  state parks  last fall said that the Tutka Bay Hatchery was no longer compatible. And so I introduced a bill early on that  simply said that it is compatible with state parks,” she said. “But I've been working with DNR Department of Natural Resources, State Parks, Department of Law, Department of Fish and Game, Cook Inlet Aquaculture on what we can do to continue the hatchery because it's so important to our fishery, to the dip net fishery, and even impacts our tourism.”
    During the town hall meeting, Vance announced her support of a land swap in order to keep the park the same size.
    “There's a land allocation issue with the  compatibility with state parks. That's why Parks said that it's no longer compatible because it became a legal land issue,” Vance said. “So what the state has done is  found land that could be traded so that the parks still had  an equal value of land and the hatchery could continue its operations in the same location.”
    The hatchery issue is divisive, with some arguing the hatchery is degrading the environment. Bruce Friend took Vance to task on her bill.
    “And I think that  the fact that you have proposed this is a direct afront to the conservation community. Now I understand that you want to represent the fishing community. And I understand that you think that there's probably no other options for the dip net fishery or other activities like that, that are supported currently supported by the hatchery.”
    Friend urged Vance to look deeper into why State Parks was interested in closing the hatchery.
    Vance also talked about her support of HB123 to recognize Native tribes officially.
    “It's officially and legally recognizing the federally recognized tribes in the state. That has not happened yet in our state government,” Vance said. “And I thought that this was a piece of legislation that was important to moving forward for our future and showing the tribes that we value their contribution and that we recognize them as sovereigns.”
    Vance also defended her support of a bill that would prohibit employers from requiring a Covid-19 vaccination of employees, saying that was because the vaccines were all authorized on an emergency basis only. Attendees were concerned that without the protection, commercial and charter fishermen may find it difficult to hire deckhands and assure customers of a Covid-safe trip.