House Urges Congress to Protect Alaska Property Rights
Passage of HJR 38 brings federal recognition to Alaskans dispute with Alaska Railroad Corporation
Friday, April 20, 2018, Juneau, AK – Property owners alongside the Alaska Railroad facing government overreach are closer to victory in a 3-year long battle thanks to the passage of House Joint Resolution 38. Representative Chuck Kopp (R – Anchorage) introduced the resolution in response to Alaska Railroad claims to exclusive use of easements on private and homestead property.
“Today the House of Representatives sent a message to Congress that giving back property rights to hundreds of land owners along the Railroad right-of-way is the right course of action,” said Rep. Chuck Kopp.
As a result of misunderstanding the clear intent of Congress and a plain reading of the Alaska Railroad Transfer Act of 1982, the Railroad wrongfully believed it received a fee simple interest in the right of way across Homestead land patents. 6 years ago the Alaska Railroad began implementing the Residential Right of Way Use Permit process which extracted thousands of dollars in annual payments from Alaskans who had lawns and gardens in the right-of-way.
“The reason this was wrong, is because the Railroad has a surface easement only, it is not the landowner. Private property owners on either side of the track own the land to the centerline, and if the Railroad ever ceases to exist the land reverts to the underlying landowner,” said Rep. Chuck Kopp.
HJR 38 addresses the issue of property rights in three ways. First, it asks and gives the legislature or governor approval to disown a property that has been unlawfully taken; second, it acknowledges if a property was not available under federal ownership it is not available under state ownership; and third, it urges the congressional delegation to recognize property rights not conveyed under the Alaska Railroad Transfer Act.
“I’m glad to see this issue has been elevated to the point where Congressman Don Young has stepped in to set the record straight. It should be telling when Alaska and the nation’s longest serving congressman, who helped write the Alaska Railroad Transfer Act, says Alaskans deserve their property rights back,” said Rep. Kopp.
HJR 38 passed the House 32 – 2 and now moves to the Senate for consideration.
For more information contact Press Secretary Mallory Walser at Mallory.Walser@akleg.gov