Legislators today looked at an initiative likely to be on the ballot later this year that would re-establish a Coastal Management Program. The previous program was allowed to close last summer as lawmakers and the administration could not agree on the terms of extending it.
Initiative Sponsor, Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho, told a joint meeting of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees that the law that would set up the state program gives Alaskans a voice over the federal government. He said under other federal statutes, the state would only have the right to make a comment that might be considered. But Coastal Management is different.
The federal government is actually required to submit for state review their proposed activities and get the state’s approval. It’s a tremendous power, and it’s important for Alaskans that we have a coastline that is roughly 38% to 40% of the entire nation’s. And most of our activities occur in this state happen in the coastal zone.
He said the state right now does not have the right to review any federal activity – and that federal agencies are not now submitting its plans to the state. He also said that the program is important to local landowners and developers because of its role in coordinating permitting activities. He says that accelerates rather than delays projects that come before it.
That function has been paramount to the program and it’s been incorporated into our intiative as well. That is to make sure that an individual developer does not have to be in a situation where he or she or it has to go to each agency individually, try and sort out the regulatory scheme for that agency, work that time line, go to the next agency and do the same thing.
The hearing was held as a requirement for all initiatives and no decision or action was necessary. The legislature may take action on the same subject, however. If a bill that is “substantially similar” becomes law this year, voters would not need to act on it. In defining “substantially similar,” Legislative Attorney Doug Gardner said he would expect the court to give considerable leeway to the legislative version, since the issue is very complex and the purpose of the initiative is to allow dialog on many of those complex issues.
The initiative now has 24,350 approved signatures of the 25,875 signatures required by law. Director of Elections Gail Fenumiai told the joint committee that the initiative has already reached the required goal of having enough petition signers in thirty election districts. She says work is going on now only to verify the remaining 15-hunded signatures needed to put the measure on the ballot. Law gives the elections division until March 17th to complete its work, However, Fenumiai says she expects to need only another two weeks to finish the count.