Coastal Management Bill Introduced in State House

A bill re-establishing an Alaska Coastal Management Program has been introduced in the state House of Representatives.

House Bill 325 closely mirrors a citizen’s initiative that’s on track for a statewide vote later this year. Lawmakers can pre-empt the measure by passing substantially similar legislation.

For more than 30 years, the coastal management program gave the state and local communities greater input into federal permitting decisions along Alaska’s coastline. It closed last year, after lawmakers and the Parnell administration failed to reach a deal to reauthorize it. The administration and House Republicans fought efforts by rural lawmakers and Democrats to expand the role of local communities in the program.

The initiative goes beyond legislation that failed last year in terms of giving local communities more of a voice. The head of the agency that advises the legislature on legal issues has said lawmakers would have significant leeway when adopting substantially similar legislation. But at least the first draft of the bill is largely the same as the initiative.

HB 325 was introduced by seven members of the House Majority, Kodiak Republican Alan Austerman – the Majority Leader – and four Democrats from rural and coastal parts of the state.

Governor Sean Parnell this week (Tuesday) said he prefers a public vote on the coastal management initiative. Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho is a primary sponsor, and chair of the Alaska Sea Party, the group behind the initiative effort.

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