Senators Warn Against Letting Coastal Zone Management Program Die

Alaska’s U.S. Senators are continuing to warn the state that letting the Coastal Zone Management Program die could have dire consequences. The program gives Alaska a say in offshore leasing and other federal actions related to the state’s coastlines.  It’s set to expire at the end of the month. The state legislature failed to approve extending the program, and hit a stalemate with the Parnell Administration over how to move forward.

Senator Mark Begich is the most outspoken of Alaska’s Congressional delegation and isn’t hiding his disgust that time is dwindling. He’s calling on Governor Sean Parnell to come up with a solution as the state’s executive.

“You know the governor participated and then he backed off. It’s like, OK, just step up, say you’ll extend for a year or two, whatever you have to do, then continue to work with the communities to solve this problem.”

Parnell has placed the blame with the state Senate, saying its members didn’t accept the deal brokered with the House and the governor’s office.  But Begich says there should be a way to temporarily extend the program while disputes over local control and influence are worked out.  He warns that bottom line, if the program dies, the federal government will make decisions without the state at the table.

Begich said last week (on APRN’s Talk of Alaska) that if the program dies it could jeopardize a future deepwater port in Alaska, which he says will be necessary for oil and gas development in the Arctic.

Senator Lisa Murkowski says she doesn’t see that as a big looming issue because she doubts studies will recommend putting a port three miles off Alaska’s coast in federal waters, but she still shares Begich’s concerns. Murkowski says all infrastructure projects that could help develop more oil and gas could be at risk. She says losing the program will cede power to the feds, which in her book is a bad move for Alaska.

If the Coastal Zone Management program dies at the end of June, federal officials say it will probably take two to three years to get the program back up and running, because the federal approval process takes 18 to 24 months.

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