Dear Friends and Neighbors:
It’s easy to think that the laws we pass don’t make a difference. Well sometimes they do. Or at least help those, as in foster youth Sarah Redmon’s case, who just might have moved any mountain-sized obstacles out of her way on her own.
And – I’ll write a short note about a bill we will hear Monday – that weakens Alaska’s ability to prevent developers from taking huge amounts of water from fishing streams that might damage our prized sport, commercial and subsistence fisheries. Yup. Another bill (House Bill 77) that violates the “promise” we once heard that Alaska would never trade one resource for another. Well, Alaska will, and our fish are coming out on the short end lately. There’s currently an application to take out eighteen million gallons a day of water from a prized western trout and salmon stream, the Upper Talarik Creek drainage off Lake Iliamna.
Sarah Redmon: Profile in Success
Sarah has been in foster care since she was eleven. She’s now a successful social work student at UAA who sports a nice 3.4 GPA. Oh, and like many foster youth she was homeless – for a year and a half when she couch-surfed from apartment to apartment. She’s lived through fourteen home placements. That’s unfortunately not uncommon in the foster care system, which is woefully short of foster parents – nudge, nudge. But it doesn’t keep her from being the positive person she is today, who says: “Going to college gives me the chance for a better future, and to help others, when I graduate, who don’t have the help they need.”
When Sarah left foster care she was able to re-enter because of a bill we got passed a few years ago to reverse Alaska’s ban on foster care re-entry. It used to be that once you decided to leave you couldn’t change your mind when you realized you were better off with a caring foster family. And she lives with her foster family now as a means to have both a stable home and a good place to live so she can afford to stay in college – through a scholarship program we were able to modestly expand to help foster youth transition from youth to college or job training.
That said, without any of this, I think Sarah is strong and smart enough that she might have found a way to success with no foster home, no aid, and no one to help her. But then again, why would we test a young woman like that. Life shouldn’t be a series of mean, loveless, hurdles that only the few can survive as they live without a home or caring adults. Today Sarah is not only in college, but fighting to push for reforms for those who follow her, and helps with peer mentoring as a member of the Facing Foster care in Alaska Board of Directors. Congratulations Sarah!
Water Law: Trying To Prevent The State From Allowing Fish-Killing Water Withdrawals from Our Rivers – Fixing HB 77
You would think Alaska, with its world-class fishing, would have a law that prevented companies from removing so much water from a fishing stream that it destroyed fish habitat, and fish. But we don’t. On Monday I and some colleagues will attempt to institute such a rule. It’s long overdue.
Currently we can protect our streams on two ways. One is to allow private parties, like Alaska native groups, fishing groups, and others to prove with biological date that they are entitled to stop damaging water withdrawals. The other is to hope the state uses its discretion to stop water withdrawals that are damaging. But current law lets Governor Parnell’s Commissioners to in their sold discretion “consider” whether to stop damaging water withdrawals. There is no law that would take away their discretion to allow such damage.
Given that, private parties have tried to take this into their own hands. A judge this week, on a project involving plans to remove seventeen miles of the salmon–rich Chuitna River drainage, chided the State for ignoring such a water reservation application.
The best rule, in my mind, would be to have a law that just banned companies from damaging important fishing streams by taking out too much water. I will push for a provision like that during Monday’s vote.
A lot more is going on down here. I don’t want to bore you. But as always, let us know if you have any questions, or if we can help.