WASILLA — Lisa Murkowski said she’s concerned about salmon fishing in the Mat-Su Borough, but also throughout the state. And she’s not just concerned about the fish returns being dismally low this year.
“My concern is that this is not just a bad fish year, it might be a bad fish decade,” she said Friday at a meeting with the Frontiersman’s editorial board.
Fish mean different things to people in different parts of the state. In Mat-Su, it means a good living for guides. In the Yukon-Kuskokwim region, though, it means food.
“Fish equals life, really,” Murkowski said.
She said she believes the problem is not that one area is getting all the fish and another isn’t. She said she thinks something is going on in the ocean.
“I want to know what’s happening with ocean survivability,” she said.
Some say it has something to do with water temperature.
“If that is the case and it’s going to be a 10-year swing, our economies need to start thinking about that,” she said.
Other topics discussed Friday included Arctic policy, coastal zone management, and a Murkowski’s take on state and national political races.
As for the Arctic, Murkowski said that the Law of the Sea treaty is crucial. The United States, she said, is the only coastal nation that has not signed it, and it needs to in order to have a seat at the table as nations divide up control of the increasingly ice-free Arctic Ocean.
“If we’re not a participant we not only can’t submit our (claims), we can’t object” when Canada or Russia claims a piece that is rightfully America’s, she said.
As for coastal zone management, Murkowski said she’s not in favor of the ballot proposition on the Aug. 28 primary ballot.
“I believe strongly that as a state we should have a coastal zone management plan,” she said.
But this is not the right plan, she said. It’s too vague and has a lot of holes in it. It creates a very strong, poorly constructed, unelected board with veto powers.
Plus, she said, she doesn’t like the idea of doing this kind of thing through initiative. Voter initiatives once approved are off-limits to lawmakers for two years.
“It’s a real shame that the Legislature was not able to address that,” she said.
As for her thoughts on political races, Murkowski said that the selection of Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to be former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s running mate in the presidential election will shift the focus of the debate to the economy. She thinks that’s a good thing.
“We should be focused on the national side on how we rebuild this economy,” Murkowski said.
She said she didn’t vote for Ryan’s famous budget the first time he proposed it out of concern for how it dealt with Medicare, but she did vote for it the second time she had a chance.
She said that if she was advising Romney — a candidate she said she’s supported since before it was popular — she would have told him to release his tax returns ages ago. Romney’s recent pronouncement that he’s never paid less than 13 percent in taxes, she said, “quite honestly doesn’t make me comfortable.”
But, she quickly added, “Having said that, I want him desperately to win.”
She decried recent pronouncements from Obama administration officials that half of the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska would be shut down to development.
“I quite honestly believe that we need a change in administration,” she said.
As for races closer to home, Murkowski looked tentatively into her crystal ball at future Senate races. She said she thought a lot of people were lining up to take a crack at her colleague, Sen. Mark Begich and that it’s not going to be an easy race. The national Democratic Party likes having a senator in Alaska and will likely fund the race heavily.
As for who she sees jumping in, Murkowski said when she travels around the state she doesn’t see her erstwhile opponent Joe Miller at various events.
Who does she see?
Well, there’s Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell. There are some who would like to see either Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan or Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan step in.
“Both Dans could be good candidates,” she said. Also, “I’m not convinced Ralph Samuels is done.”
Contact reporter Andrew Wellner at email@example.com or 352-2270.