Staff at Alaska’s Coastal Management program are looking for new jobs, but only occasionally finding them, as the program nears its sunset date at the end of this month.
In Juneau, where two-thirds of its 33 positions are located, new positions have been difficult to find, said Randy Bates, director of the Division of Coastal and Ocean Management.
“Juneau is a tough market for us,” he said.
Only about four of the 22 here have new jobs, though two positions that were located with Coastal Management but funded separately have been relocated to the Department of Natural Resources.
Bates said employees in Anchorage, a larger market, have had better success in finding new positions.
Among those with new jobs: Bates himself, who will become the new Director of the Department of Fish and Game’s Habitat Division on July 1.
Some legislators are working to save the program, which would take the Alaska Legislature calling itself into special session to reauthorize the federally-funded program.
An earlier effort to do that got as far as legislators booking flights to Juneau before it was called off when an agreement was not reached.
Bates said he’s proceeding as if salvation will not be coming.
“I know the rumors are out there,” he said. “My focus is still on helping staff relocate as well as they can.
Juneau Democratic Rep. Beth Kerttula said she’s still working for a way to keep the program going and trying to keep in contact with coastal legislators who are part of the House Majority coalition.
“There are a few of us who are continuing to put our head against the wall, trying to get something to happen,” she said.
At Coastal Management’s Gold Street office Thursday, staff were sorting files in preparation for the program’s end. Many of the records are going into the trash, but some are headed for the Alaska State Archives.
As of July 1, the state’s authority to run the Coastal Management program, including issuance of permits, will end.
That’s forced a process of triage, where the staff determines which permits can be completed by June 30.
If a fully-completed permit application were submitted today, Bates wrote in an email to staff, it couldn’t be finalized before the 21-day comment period is done and can’t be accepted.
Trying not to leave applicants in the lurch, other workers are rushing to complete ongoing projects with fewer people.
“It exacerbates the frustration,” Bates acknowledged.
Currently approved local coastal management plans will be without statutory authority on July 1 and will be unenforceable under state and federal law, he said.
• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.