January 06, 2006
"We have been working hard for nearly three years to update and reform our coastal management program into one that works for Alaska," the governor said. "The process was challenging, but the results were worth it. I'm very pleased that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and its Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management have recognized our desire, ability and legal right to manage development on our own shores."
Federal law establishes standards for states to develop their own coastal zone management programs to achieve wise use of the land and water, while considering ecological, cultural, historic and aesthetic values as well as the need for compatible economic development. The state has been working with OCRM since 2003 on a revised program that reflects Alaska's unique conditions and needs.
In February 2003, Murkowski moved the Alaska Coastal Management Program from the governor's office to the Department of Natural Resources, and in May 2003 signed a bill to reform the ACMP and amend its implementing regulations. In January 2005, OCRM rejected the state's amendments as not complying with federal approval standards, but later reversed itself, acknowledging the legitimacy of the governor's legal objections. In June 2005, the governor signed another bill further amending ACMP's guiding statutes and allowing coastal resource districts eight additional months to submit revised district plans to DNR.
Conceding the accuracy of the state's legal position, OCRM gave preliminary approval to the amended ACMP in June 2005. NOAA issued its final approval in a Dec. 29, 2005 letter from Capt. Craig McLean, NOAA's acting deputy assistant administrator, which said Alaska's amended plan met all federal requirements and standards. NOAA's approval formally incorporates into the ACMP the statutory revisions to AS 46.39 and 46.40 and the regulatory revisions at 11 AAC 110, 112 and 114.
"NOAA's approval is an important milestone in the reform of the ACMP," said Randy Bates, acting director of the Office of Project Management and Permitting, DNR's lead ACMP administering agency. "However, their approval is only part of the overall reform necessary to fulfill the legislative directives starting in 2003."
All 33 coastal districts with approved district plans must now revise their plans to comply with the amended ACMP statutes and regulations by March 1, 2006. DNR and NOAA intend to review and approve those plans by March 1, 2007. DNR must also review and update all categorically or generally consistent ACMP determinations, as there has been no comprehensive update of these lists since 1995.
"I consider NOAA's approval a significant victory for all stakeholders in the ACMP process," the governor said. "This approval continues Alaska's track record of effective and comprehensive management of those precious coastal uses and resources."
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