After delaying the vote overnight, the state Senate on Wednesday gave final approval to legislation regulating high capacity wells.
The Republican bill allows owners of high capacity wells to avoid having their permits reviewed when they repair, re-drill, or sell their property. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said it’s about providing certainty to the agricultural producers that rely on them. He noted that those farms have an $88.3 billion dollar impact on the economy, supporting over 415,000 jobs in the state.
Democrats like Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) cautioned the bill could do exactly the opposite of what the sponsors intend though, creating a situation where farmers could find access to water cut off without a proper review of the effect changes in wells could have in other areas. “I believe this bill is going to cause more problems than it’s going to solve,” she warned. “It’s going to create uncertainty for the very people who have lobbied you on passing this bill.”
The legislation passed on a 19-13 vote and now heads to the Assembly.