On Wednesday, the Coastal Zone Management tour came to Ketchikan. It was the ninth stop for a series of statewide hearings to gather public comment on the Coastal Zone Management initiative that will be on the Aug. 28th primary ballot.
The hearing was run by Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who started the proceedings with an overview, including an analysis of the bill and an estimate of what the resulting coastal zone program would cost the state.
”The program creates a coastal policy board. That board would have 13 members appointed by the governor. Nine of those members would come from coastal areas,” he sais. “Nine coastal districts of approximately 27 approved coastal districts would select three nominees to send to the governor, and the governor would select nine members from those coastal areas. In addition to that, commissioners of commerce, fish and game, environmental conservation and natural resources would serve on the coastal policy board.”
Treadwell said the measure would cost an estimated $5.4 million a year, which would include 34 full-time positions, and travel for board members and staff. He stressed that the estimate is a best-guess.
“When the Lt. Governor and the Office of Management Budget is asked to prepare a cost estimate, and that happens for virtually any bill going its way through the Legislature, people can argue with the cost estimate,” he said. “I can argue with things in this cost estimate. And I can tell you that there are things in this cost estimate that may be too high and may be too low.”
Former Ketchikan resident Kate Troll is a member of the Alaska SeaParty, the group that sponsored the initiative. She attended the hearing as the official “pro” spokeswoman.
Troll said development projects work better with a coastal management program in place.
She said Alaska has the most coastline of any state in the U.S., and is the only coastal state without a management program. Troll said it’s an important tool for the state to have some power in decisions affecting its coast.
“In 2008, we have a recent example of what happens when we don’t have a coastal
management program, and how our argument gets weakened,” she said. “In 2008, the beluga whale was listed as an endangered species by the federal government in Cook Inlet. In a recent lawsuit, the State of Alaska wanted to challenge this listing. And in that challenge, they cited the existence of our coastal management program as a reason why the whales did not need to be listed as endangered. Only now we have a problem. We no longer have a coastal management program.”
On the “nay” side was Mike Satre of the Council of Alaska Producers, a mining organization. He said that he and his organization support a coastal management program, just not this one. Satre said he worked hard to get the Legislature to renew the coastal management program that had been in place since the 1970s. That bill failed in June 2011 by a single vote in the Senate.
Satre said the initiative would create another big bureaucracy, and would not bring back the former coastal management program. He said there are many defects in the measure, including an unelected board, a new division established under the state Department of Commerce, no timelines for decisions and vague language that could lead to litigation.
“We think this threatens jobs and the economy, it implements a large new bureaucracy with much uncertainty, and ultimately it does not restore the old program that worked for Alaska,” he said. “We think it’s a bad law. We think that this kind of complex decision should be left to the legislative process.”
During the public comment portion of the hearing, three people spoke in favor of the measure and six against. The hearing was open to everyone, and some of the speakers were not local residents.
Tom Schulz of Ketchikan says the initiative is a way for the state and local communities to get involved in managing Alaska’s coasts. He said he read the initiative, as well as the federal act from the 1970s establishing the coastal zone program for states.
“You read that act, the federal government did an amazing thing, from my perspective anyway,” he said. “They agreed that if the states would volunteer to participate in this program, adopt a coastal zone management program that’s approved, federal action has to be consistent with that plan. That’s the most effective seat at the table I can find anywhere in the federal statutes.”
Deantha Crockett of the Anchorage-based Alaska Miners Association said she, too, had hoped the Legislature would extend the coastal management program, and was disappointed when it failed. However, she said she and her organization do not support the initiative.
“We think it’s a disaster,” she said. “We think it’s just flat-out additional bureaucracy in times when we don’t need any more bureaucracy to get things done in our state or our nation or our communities.”
Rep. Peggy Wilson of Wrangell and Rep. Kyle Johansen of Ketchikan both spoke against the measure, as did Chris Gerondale of Construction Machinery Industrial, which has an office in Ketchikan.
Gerondale said his business provides support to mining groups, and while he agrees that a coastal management program is needed, this isn’t the right bill. He said it should be drafted by the Legislature, instead.
Also speaking against the measure were Renee Schofield and Dick Coose, both of Ketchikan. Local resident Ann Lucas spoke in favor of Ballot Measure 2.
Ketchikan resident Mike Round of the Southern Southeast Aquaculture Association also spoke in favor of the Coastal Zone Management proposition. His organization runs salmon hatcheries, and holds tideland leases.
Round said a streamlined permit process would help his organization.
“For all that SSRAA does to enhance the state’s common property salmon resource, we do it with a minimum number of employees,” he said. “We have neither the staff or the time to research state of federal agencies for their jurisdictional authority, or bird-dog applications through a hodge-podge of state and federal reviewing protocols. It would be extremely helpful to have a one-stop shop to deal with permitting. SSRAA used and appreciated the former coastal zone management program and we encourage its restoration.”
At the close of Wednesday’s hearing, Treadwell reminded Alaskans that comments will be accepted through Saturday. He says the easiest way to provide them, and see other comments, is through the state’s website, Alaska.gov, and then clicking on his photograph.