Sponsors of an initiative to reinstate the state’s Coastal Management Program are ready to start gathering nearly 26-thouand signatures needed to take their ballot question to the next level. Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell certified the measure last night.
The former Coastal Management Program worked with local governments, developers, state agencies and the federal government before the legislature allowed it to close on July first.
Kodiak Island Borough Mayor Jerome Selby, one of the prime sponsors of the initiative, points to the importance of the Coastal Management Program – not just for people along the coast, but statewide.
The Coastal Zone Program is really the only program that allows Alaska’s people to have a lot of input into the federal decision-making process before the decision is made. And if we don’t have a coastal zone program, realistically we have to react to a decision that has already been made. And as everyone knows, that’s a much more difficult path.
He said the only remaining way to change existing federal decisions is through litigation.
Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho, also one of the prime sponsors, says the steering committee has organized supporters in all forty House districts and raised about half the money sponsors believe it will take to get the petitions before voters. They have a year to get enough signatures to qualify the question for the 2014 ballot, However, if enough signatures are gathered before the start of the upcoming session in January, the issue would be placed on the 2012 ballot. In either case, the legislature has the option of addressing the same issues as the initiative.
Governor Parnell has not said anything about the initiative. However, his staff, in an email today pointed to a Permitting Office within the Department of Natural Resources, saying “This allows communities to weigh in numerous times for each project under review.”
Botelho says there’s a strong reason for industries to support the initiative. He says there is a defect in trying to manage development in the absence of a “federally approved” coastal management plan.
We’re interested in the process that allows voices at the local level to be heard. Those voices aren’t binding, but they are an opportunity which the proposed effort in the Department of Natural Resources does not account for. And obviously, one of the other major deficiencies is the fact that there is no way that the state can, under its proposed scheme, direct federal government participation.
The Division of Elections is preparing booklets in which supporters can gather signatures for the initiative. No specific release time has been set, although Lieutenant Governor Treadwell said he has already begun assembling cost estimates from various departments to determine the fiscal impact of the initiative. That will be part of the signature booklets.