Alaska fisheries ballot battle becomes more expensive

Mines dump $1.2 million more into ‘vote no’ campaign; total spending tops $7.2 million

A salmon is seen in an undated file photo. (Juneau Empire)

This year’s fish fight is already half as expensive as the 2014 ballot battle over Alaska’s oil and gas tax system.

 

According to new filings from the Alaska Public Offices commission, mining firms Teck Alaska and Donlin Gold have donated an additional $1.2 million to a group whose mission is to campaign against Ballot Measure 1 in this fall’s election.

According to the report filed July 6 by “Stand for Alaska — Vote No on One,” contributors have now provided $6.3 million to the opposition’s cause.

A July 10 report filed by “Yes for Salmon,” which is backing Ballot Measure 1, shows just over $989,000 in contributions.

“Stand for Salmon,” which is also backing the measure, reported about $105,000 in contributions in a report filed July 7.

The Washington, D.C.-based New Venture Fund and Trout Unlimited also have reported a few thousand dollars in expenses supporting the ballot measure.

In 2014, Alaskans spent more than $14 million backing and opposing a ballot measure that aimed to repeal an oil tax cut known as Senate Bill 21. More than $13 million of that tally was spent on “vote no” efforts backing the tax cut, and less than $1 million was spent by “vote yes” proponents.

Teck Alaska is the operator of the Red Dog zinc and lead mine in the Northwest Arctic Borough. Donlin is developing a gold mine on a tributary of the Kuskokwim River in southwest Alaska. If approved, the mine would be one of the largest open-pit gold mines in the world.

According to APOC records, Stand for Alaska is spending heavily on radio and TV advertising. The organization reported nearly $800,000 in ad buys on June 26; it is spending another $75,000 on internet ads.

Initiative backers appear to be working more at the individual level, with their largest listed expenses being printed material and staff time organizing volunteers and contacting voters.

Ballot Measure 1 seeks to strengthen environmental protections for salmon-bearing streams and rivers across the state. It has been opposed by a broad coalition of construction, mining and petroleum corporations who argue that it would impair projects across the state. Local governments have also raised concerns about how road construction and other building efforts would be affected.

The Alaska Supreme Court is also considering the measure’s constitutionality. Alaska’s constitution prohibits ballot measures that make appropriations — of resources such as land and water, as well as money — and the state of Alaska is arguing that the measure is so broad that it effectively allocates state waters for fish, at the expense of other uses.

A ruling on the matter is expected before August.


• Contact reporter James Brooks at jbrooks@juneauempire.com or 523-2258.


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