SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

No special session to save Alaska’s
coastal zone management program


May 31, 2011

(SitNews) - Alaska Speaker of the House Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, on Sunday announced that the proposed special session to reauthorize and amend the state’s coastal zone management program will not take place this week in Juneau. The Alaska Senate failed to agree to a compromise version with five original Senate “must-haves” working off the House version of the governor’s bill, House Bill 106.

“Why would we go back into special session to vote on something that was twice failed by the House on the last day of the last special session?” Speaker Chenault said. “We offered a compromise with five changes the Senate originally wanted and we were prepared to go with those, but the conference committee report was not acceptable to House members. There’s no sense for House members to go back to Juneau to take up a bill that we already voted down. The House did offer a compromise – taking the House version that passed forty-to-none and incorporating five changes the Senate originally wanted. It is a shame that the program is going to be turned over to the feds – we’ve already relinquished enough powers to them. We wish the Senate would’ve agreed to an actual compromise instead of more of the same.”

House Minority Leader Beth Kerttula (D-Juneau) said in a prepared statement, “Alaskans elect us to be statesmen and women and to work together to resolve issues for Alaska’s benefit. That is not happening with coastal zone, and it hurts all Alaskans. The coastal zone program is essential if Alaska is to have any say in planning federal projects off Alaska’s coast. It’s past time for those holding the fate of the program, and the jobs of its 33 employees, in their hands to put their differences aside and enact a strong coastal management program for Alaska.” 

Representative Kerttula is a former state attorney for the Alaska Coastal Management Program and has been a leader in the legislature on coastal issues. 

However, the Senate Bipartisan Working Group said on Sunday that it is ready and willing to go into a Special Session to save the state’s Coastal Management Program.

Senate Majority Leadership met Sunday Morning to reaffirm their belief that the carefully crafted compromise reached unanimously by the Conference Committee is the best compromise to keep the program alive and protect Alaska’s best interests.

The Conference Committee report passed the Senate with a strong show of support, by a vote of 14 to 4. The report failed to pass the House by only one vote just before the House adjourned three days early.

“We are concerned about this program.  There are very high stakes if this program disappears,” said Senate President Gary Stevens.  “The Senate believes this compromise fully meets the needs of the parties on both sides of the debate.”

The agreement includes a reasonable compromise which would save the Coastal Management Program critical to Alaska’s coastal communities, industry members and the overall well-being of the state.  

The compromise includes seven major items that were important for the program to succeed including a clarification of the definition of local knowledge versus scientific evidence, removal for cause from the Coastal Management Board, a six-year sunset clause and a requirement for a second report on the status of the program to be made in four years.

The conference committee consisted of three members of the Senate and three members of the House.  It was made up of both Republicans and Democrats.   

Legislators and staff had been working on an ACMP compromise, using Senate Bill 56 as the vehicle because HB 106 died in special session.

ACMP renewal failed on the 27th and final day of the first special session after the House voted down Senate changes to HB106, which was further amended in a conference committee.

House Bill 106 was placed on Governor Sean Parnell’s special session proclamation April 18, after failing to advance from the Senate Finance Committee. That committee did not act on the bill until May 13, the 26th day of the special session, passing a version that could not get the required votes for passage. The bill from conference, CC SCS CS HB106 (FIN), failed by a vote of 20 to 15 two times on the last day of special session.

According to Senate Majority Leadership, the impacts from Loss of the Alaska Coastal Management are:

1) Loss of the state’s most powerful tool to influence federal decision-making. This will give the feds greater say about what happens with Alaska’s resources.
2) Loss of coordinated, streamlined permitting, resulting in permitting delays and greater bureaucratic red tape. Developers will lose a single point of contact for the State’s review of their proposals, decreasing efficiency and increasing frustration.
3) Loss of the requirement that offshore oil and gas developers adhere to the state’s strict oil spill prevention requirements.
4) Loss of local input and knowledge into state decision-making. This may encourage some Alaskans to resort to costly and disruptive litigation to ensure their concerns are addressed by developers.
5) Loss of federal funding for state and local planning efforts. To date, the federal government has invested more than $151 million in the ACMP. Alaska’s share of
coastal management funds would go to other states.
6) Potential inability to receive additional federal revenue sharing from offshore oil and gas development. Several bills now before Congress would allow for OCS revenue sharing only for states with an approved coastal plan.
7) Inability to receive federal approval of a deepwater port in the Arctic at a time when the state is working hard to ramp up oil and gas development in the outer continental shelf off Alaska. The legislature just put $972,000 in the capital budget to identify and map potential deepwater Arctic ports. Federal deep water port approval is limited to states with coastal
8) Could undermine Obama Administration and congressional support for opening oil and gas development in the Arctic. Loss of the ACMP provides ammunition for opponents to argue that Alaska doesn’t have responsible coastal safeguards in place. If the ACMP goes away, Alaska would soon be the only state of 35 eligible states that does not participate.
9) Inability to receive grants under the federal Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program, which will distribute $20 million in 2011, including money
for a project on Campbell Creek in Anchorage.
10) Loss of a vital tool for balancing economic development with management of resources valued highly by Alaskans along our 34,000 miles of coastline.
11) Loss of 34 state jobs and many other jobs in local governments. The program currently provides more than $700,000 to 28 local coastal governments to enable them to participate.

If Alaska terminates its participation in the program on June 30, federal officials say it would likely take 2-3 years to get a program up and running again. The federal plan approval process takes 18-24 months, once a new plan is submitted.



Sources of News: 

Alaska House Majority Caucus

AK State Legislature: Senate Bipartisan Working Group

House Minority Leader Beth Kerttula (D-Juneau)


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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska

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