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Juneau – Monday, the Alaska Legislature passed a bill to change a state loan program to help Alaska’s fledgling mariculture industry. Participants in the industry often have trouble getting financing through private banks. House Bill 76 amends the current program to allow up to 40 percent of the fund to be used for loans to help pay for planning, construction, and operations of shellfish and seaweed hatcheries or enhancement projects.
“There are Alaskan shellfish and marine plant farmers who are willing to put in the hard work but have difficulty finding the resources to get started. House Bill 76 gives them access to capital,” said HB 76 sponsor Rep. Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan). “There is great potential for growth in our small mariculture industry, and I am pleased that the members of the 30th Alaska State Legislature could do something to help the industry succeed.”
The Alaska Mariculture Revolving Loan Fund was created in 2012 with a $5 million investment to provide loans for the development of Alaskan-owned mariculture operations to help diversify the local economies in many coastal communities. Since it was created, the Alaska Mariculture Revolving Loan Fund has made seven loans totaling $598,000. The Division of Economic Development confirms that there have been no delinquencies or defaults under the program. HB 76 includes provisions that allow loan repayments to be deferred for up to six years for most loans and up to 11 years for the new hatchery loans.
By expanding the purview of an existing revolving loan fund, HB 76 provides the financial infrastructure to develop a stable supply of seed for resident marine plants and shellfish at no additional cost to Alaskans.
House Bill 76 passed the Alaska State Senate today by a vote of 19-0. The bill was carried on the Senate floor by Sen. Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak). The bill passed the Alaska House of Representatives last year by a vote of 26-14. After a concurrence vote, HB 76 will be sent to Alaska Governor Bill Walker for his signature.