Research Reserve Stands to Lose State Funding

Ariel Van Cleave

     The Kachemak Bay Research Reserve could potentially see a $175,000 cut in state funds. Money for the KBRR comes through the Sport Fish Division of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

     The Sport Fish Division has been dealing with declining revenues for the last few years because of a decrease in sport fishing license fees and federal receipts from sales of fishing gear. And, in general, the state is facing a roughly billion dollar budget shortfall for next year. 

     But the state isn’t the only funding source for the research reserve. State Representative Paul Seaton said there are matching funds from the federal government totaling close to $600,000.

     “So you total those up and you come up with the whole program, basically.”

     Seaton said this type of cut would be enough to make it so the KBRR couldn’t keep its doors open. And he isn’t sure if cutting the state funds could put the research reserve in danger of actually losing the federal match. Seaton said that will be discussed more during meetings of the House Finance Committee. 

     The Sport Fish Division was already looking for a new home for the research reserve because officials say it doesn’t quite fit the division’s core mission. Seaton said there have been several conversations so far talking about which umbrella it could go under and if that could lead to a new source of money.

     “The university is one place, but they have a fairly high overhead charge that they take on grant money that comes through them. And then we’ve been talking to the Department of Commerce. Because NOAA, which is the federal partner, is housed in the federal government in the Department of Commerce,” Seaton said.

     He said new private partners could be an option, or even a local match coming in from the City of Homer or Kenai Peninsula Borough. The KBRR needs about $300,000 each year to capture enough federal matching funds to be fully functional. All of the budget talks are at the committee level at this point, but Seaton said now is the time to start thinking “outside the box.”

     “In the past there’s been subcommittees that have… made kind of statement-wise cuts that you knew wouldn’t be maintained through the finance committees. I’m not optimistic that that’s going to be the case here,” he said.