The Alaska Supreme Court today allowed most of the Stand for Salmon ballot initiative go to forward. It severed some of its language on constitutional grounds, but left in place a pending danger for all developers in the state.
The decision was not unexpected but oil, mining, forestry, and construction companies are analyzing it now, as the outcome of the November election will have an impact on the economy in Alaska.
The initiative puts stricter controls on all development in Alaska if it is anywhere in a watershed or drainage of anadromous fish like salmon or rainbow trout. That is most everywhere that is unfrozen.
It creates a condition that will allow lengthy litigation to rule the process in everything from building a dock, a home, or a business.
Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott decided that the ballot initiative proposed by Stand for Salmon would violate Article XI Section 7 of the Alaska constitution because it removed the State’s constitutional right to allocate resources.
The initiative sponsors challenged that decision and the Alaska Superior Court approved the initiative.
The Walker Administration’s lawyers in the Department of Law actually assisted Stand for Salmon in writing ballot language that would pass muster. But later, the Governor’s Office appealed the Superior Court decision, and this morning the Supreme Court said that portions of the initiative in fact do encroach on the discretion over resources — discretion which is given to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game by the Legislature, ” that the initiative as written therefore effects an unconstitutional appropriation,” the Supreme Court decision states.
Basically, the judges say that the language that ties the hands of the commissioner of Fish and Game, forcing him or her to deny a permit under certain conditions, is an inappropriate incursion into the Legislature’s authority.
“But we conclude that the problematic sections may be severed from the remainder of the initiative. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the superior court and remand for the superior court to direct the Lieutenant Governor to sever the offending provisions but place the remainder of the initiative on the ballot,” the ruling says.
The initiative will, it appears, move ahead to the November ballot, and the battle will continue between those who wish to have a diverse economy and those who wish to stall resource development in Alaska.
Must Read Alaska’s Suzanne Downing is still reading the decision, which was released at 11:30 am. Expected are statements from the Governor’s Office, and the Stand for Alaska group, both which oppose the Stand for Salmon initiative.
The entire decision can be found here:
This story will be updated.