Municipalities Pushing for Coastal Management Program Reauthorization

Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

A growing number of Alaska municipalities are pushing the legislature to reauthorize the state’s Coastal Management Program, and restore some of its components gutted by former Governor Frank Murkowski.

The Juneau Assembly Monday night became the latest community to pass a resolution supporting an extension and expansion of the program, which will end July 1 unless the legislature acts this session.

Established in 1977, the Alaska Coastal Management Program was designed to help communities and developers work through projects together – a one-stop source for state and federal permits, as well as zoning and scientific work. It also gave local residents a say on development through a Coastal Policy Council. That board became a point of contention in the mid-1990s, when some developers charged it had “veto power” over projects. In 2003 and 2005, Murkowski pushed through changes to the program that included disbanding the council.

The resolution passed by the Juneau Assembly and other communities was drafted by the Alaska Municipal League. Among other things, it urges state lawmakers to reconstitute the policy board or one like it. AML Executive Director Kathie Wasserman says municipalities don’t want veto power, but would like input into development in their backyards.

Juneau Assemblyman Bob Doll says having local concerns heard on large development projects is simply good policy.

If the Alaska Coastal Management Program is not reauthorized, the federal government will take it over. Governor Sean Parnell wants to extend the program for six years in its current form – with the Murkowski changes intact. The House Resources Committee is scheduled to take up the governor’s bill, next Monday.

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