April 20, 2005
"Alaskans have a wealth of knowledge about what works and what doesn't when it comes to responsible development of our vast resources lying within our coastal regions," the governor said. "We took a tough stance, but it was necessary to get federal coastal managers to recognize our expertise and ability to manage development. That recognition represents a victory for our environment, our economy, our coastal communities and our state as a whole."
The governor announced the favorable results of the negotiation during a teleconference with coastal district representatives responsible for implementing the plan.
Since its creation 25 years ago under the federal Coastal Zone Management Act, Alaska's coastal program has become a complex, confusing system that delays projects without corresponding benefits to the environment, the governor said. Since the state Legislature in 2003 ordered changes and the reform of Alaska's coastal program, the state has worked with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on obtaining approval of an amended plan that reflects Alaska's unique conditions and needs.
In January, however, NOAA rejected Alaska's amended plan and unilaterally imposed its own conditions with overbroad interpretation of federal law. The governor protested the federal requirements as an unlawful mandate, and formally refused to accept NOAA's position.
On Thursday, NOAA modified its position and clarified the few technical amendments necessary for the state plan to receive preliminary approval. Final approval of the state plan is expected by the end of the year.
"I appreciate OCRM's flexibility," the governor wrote in an April 17 letter to coastal district representatives around the state. "OCRM's modified position truly assists our state in developing a coastal program that appropriately addresses the management and protection of Alaska's coastal uses and resources, balances the rights of stakeholders, and does so in a manner fully compliant with the CZMA and its implementing regulations."
The technical amendments will provide for public hearings on the amended plan, allow the state to designate subsistence use areas, and adopt state regulations regarding a federal test of the effects of federal agency actions on a state use or resource.
The governor has also directed the Alaska Department of Natural Resources to work with the state Legislature to give coastal district representatives an additional six months to prepare and submit revised management plans.
"I hope you will join me in considering these developments a significant victory for all stakeholders in the ACMP process, and, most importantly for the coastal resources that we all work so hard to effectively manage," Murkowski wrote.
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