Lawmakers Debate Special Session for Coastal Management Program

Alaska lawmakers are being polled today to see if there is enough support to call themselves into special session to deal with the Coastal Management Program. Senate President Kodiak Republican Gary Stevens sent out the email to lawmakers. Senator Stevens was not available Wednesday, but Senate Majority Leader Anchorage Republican Kevin Meyer says if enough lawmakers agree, the session would be held next week on May 31 and would only take a day or two.

The Coastal management program will end by June 30 unless lawmakers and the Governor pass legislation that keeps it going. Meyer says the House version passed unanimously but the Senate tried to tweak it a bit.

Meyer says Bethel Senator Lyman Hoffman and Nome Senator Donny Olson are working to craft a compromise in the hope that lawmakers can quickly pass a bill.

It takes a two thirds majority of the legislature to call a special session. The governor could also call lawmakers back to deal with the issue but he would have to give them 30 days notice so it would have to happen within the next few days to make the deadline before the ACMP dies.

Anchorage Democrat, Senator Bill Wielechowski has been urging action on the law. He says the program has existed for more than 30 years and if it expires, Alaska with more coastline than all other states combined would be the only coastal state not to have a program in place.

Wielechowski says the program allows the state and coastal communities to have a formal seat at the table and impacts federal development on everything from timber in the Tongass to oil and gas development in the Chukchi and Beaufort Sea. It’s also tied to millions in federal funds. He says the federal Deep Water Port Act requires the state to have a coastal management program before a port for resource development could be built.

Wielecowski says he believes a compromise can be achieved quickly and lawmakers would not have to be in Juneau long, but he says if the streamline process goes away for permitting, and the state and local communities lose the ability to be involved, everyone loses.

Senator Meyers says the hope is that a decision regarding the special session can be made by Thursday.

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 24 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori