Water Right Administrative Fee
Why an annual administrative fee?
The annual administrative service fee applies to all permit and certificate (including temporary water use permit) holders except state agencies, those domestic water users who use less than 1,500 gallons per day, those non-domestic water users who use 500 gallons per day or less, and instream flow certificate holders where the reservation is for public benefit. The annual administrative service fee will help pay for the following administrative services:
- Update and maintain water right records in a state-wide computer system for use as a management tool and public record source. This system contains data on customers, water right status, water source (well depth or water body name), type of water use, water quantity, period of water use, water right priority date, and legal description (meridian, township, range, section, quarter sections, latitude and longitude, subdivision name or survey number, tract, block, and lot). Currently, the water right database has over 23,000 records.
- Update and maintain water rights on the states status plat system for use by the public.
- Respond to complaints from the public, state, federal and local government agencies regarding water use and misuse.
- Administratively handle complaints and appeals regarding the protection of prior water rights.
- Track permits and certificates; collect specific data, such as water use records, stream gage data, water level records, well logs, as-built plans, and specifications; and update databases for public and private use.
- Assist the Department of Law with appeals to the Superior Court on water resource management issues and water rights.
- Conduct coastal zone management reviews for consistency determinations, to assure that the appropriation and use of water is consistent with the Alaska Coastal Management Program.
- Pre-project review and assistance prior to the submittal of a water right application (examples: AJ Gold Mine, Fort Knox Gold Mine, Silver Lake Hydroelectric, Tazimina River Hydroelectric, Viewpoint Ventures Subdivision, and Boulder Springs Subdivision). Work with the developer to ensure that water rights holders are not harmed by the proposed development.
- Participate in site-specific water resource planning and review (examples: state area and management plans; federal land management plans; wildlife refuge plans; recreation plans; and groundwater task forces).
- Conduct or assist in hydrologic and water use data collection for specific areas not related to a water right request but to an area of water management concern (examples: Anchorage Hillside, Mat-Su Borough, Eagle River Valley, Chena Ridge, Auk Nu/Indian Cove, Nikiski, and Anchor Point).
The fee has become necessary as the state legislature has directed the department to find other sources of revenues to replace general funds. Program receipts are collected from the individual beneficiary of a program, and the funds collected are used to administer that program for the benefit of the water rights holders and the general public.
Why a $50 fee for the work listed above?
The revenues generated will offset budget cuts and allow us to improve the administration and management of Alaskas water resources. It has been determined that the collection of a fee less than $50 is not economical due to the cost of sending and receiving a bill. It is also a fact that, of the permits and certificates subject to this fee, not all of them will receive $50 worth of work each and every year. Some of the files will require only minimal work. The fee helps pay for the administrative, management, and technical assistance by which the water right system supports the economy of Alaska and its development.
Why the exemptions to the fee?
There is no benefit to the state to impose this fee on other state agencies, nor is it in the states best interest to impose the fee on an individual or group that has reserved water for instream flows to protect fish and wildlife and public recreation opportunities.
The exemption to the fee for domestic water use of less than 1,500 gpd is based on the fact that time spent on administrative work associated with domestic water use of less than 1,500 gpd is, on the average, a lot less than on permits and certificates issued for larger domestic uses and any non-domestic water use. Domestic water use is very stable water use the type of water use and the location of water use rarely changes, and the source of water is normally uncontroversial due to the quantity of water required. The division purposely structured this exemption for domestic water uses such as lawn and garden, domestic livestock, greenhouses, and other water-related household amenities. The water well log data obtained from the many domestic water users is a valuable source of hydrologic information that is incorporated into a statewide database shared by state, federal, and municipal agencies, and used by the public and private sectors. The cost of this type of data collected, if it were not collected through the water right application process, would cost much more than the monies collected through an administrative service fee.
In short, the Department of Natural Resources has structured this fee to be fair to all water right appropriators of the state and has considered the economics of collecting a fee, with the above exemptions to the fee.