News from the Alaska State Legislature, the Office of Senator Coghill
For Immediate Release: October 02, 2017

Senators Disappointed by 9th Circuit’s Decision in Water Rights Case

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ANCHORAGE – Members of the Alaska Senate Majority today expressed disappointment with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Sturgeon v. Masica, a case centered on Alaskans’ right to manage their navigable waterways. 

The court ruled that the federal government “properly exercised its authority to regulate hovercraft use on the rivers within conservation system units in Alaska” when it prevented John Sturgeon from using his hovercraft to access moose hunting grounds.

“I’m disappointed but not surprised,” said Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole. “The plain language of the law was acknowledged by the US Supreme Court and, yet again, ignored by the 9th Circuit. The U.S. Supreme Court has previously said that the 9th Circuit’s interpretation of ANILCA, Section 103(c) was inconsistent with both the text and context of ANILCA.”

The ruling is subject to review by the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned a significant number of decisions from the 9th Circuit in recent years.  

"This decision exemplifies the 9th Circuit's lack of understanding about the State of Alaska and its sovereignty over our land and waters,” said Sen. Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage. “As a result, this segment of the judicial branch is rewriting existing law based on a lack of information. I remain hopeful that the Supreme Court will overturn this decision.”

For more information, contact Senate Majority Press Secretary Daniel McDonald at (907) 465-4066.

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