Down in Juneau, state legislators are thinking about creating a special endowment to fund Chinook research.
Supporters say runs of Chinook, or king, salmon have declined around Alaska, and something must be done to restore the iconic fish.
Especially concerned are Western Alaska legislators representing constituencies dismayed over depressed Chinook runs to the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers and Norton Sound.
Sen. Donny Olson, D-Nome, is the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 205, with Rep. Bob Herron, D-Bethel, carrying companion legislation in House Bill 332.
The bills would create an endowment fund, which would be invested. A seven-member board comprised of Alaska's fish and game commissioner and six "public members" from around the state would use the profits to award Chinook research grants.
Assuming legislators support the idea, they'll have to decide how much money to put into the endowment. The bills don't call for a specific amount, although they do make a reference to $50 million.
Certainly, the money is available, as the state is flush with billions of dollars in surplus oil revenue.
But whether a research endowment really has statewide appeal is questionable, as the health of Chinook stocks is varied. Certainly, the Yukon and Kuskokwim runs have struggled, as have other runs such as Kodiak's Karluk River stock. Farther east, in Southeast Alaska, the situation looks better.
The Senate Resources Committee is scheduled to take up SB 205 at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Here is Olson's sponsor statement.
And here's a packet of letters in support of the endowment.
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