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Legislators expect to see Coastal Management issue again

Posted: June 29, 2011 - 9:37pm

Alaska’s Coastal Management program officially ends today after operating in Alaska for 34 years, providing a powerful state voice on federal development in its waters.

Some legislators who fought to save the program say they hope to bring it back in future years, and legislation to do that is expected to be introduced when the Legislature returns to Juneau next January.

Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, said she was one of those who supports bringing back Coastal Management.

She is “committed to continue working with members of the Juneau delegation, Senator Dennis Egan and Representative Beth Kerttula, to find a way to create a new program that respects and accommodates local input and provides prospective developers an easier path to securing state and federal permits for their projects,” she said in a blog post after the vote earlier this week.

“That’s just a topic that’s not going to be over,” Kerttula, D-Juneau, said, given the importance of coastal issues to so much of the state.

Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, said he worked hard to craft a deal to keep the program alive, and said he expects those efforts to resume when the Legislature returns.

“I absolutely expect to see legislation proposed in the coming session that would reconstitute the program,” Hawker said.

Legislators more than once thought they had an agreement to keep the program going, including after a unanimous House of Representatives vote on a modified Coastal Management program.

Legislators said they were close to reaching an agreement several times, first in the regular session and then in two special sessions during which Coastal Management was under discussion.

If a new program is adopted by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor, it could take a year or more to get staff hired and up to speed, Parnell administration officials told legislators recently. And adopting new coastal plans and winning appropriate approvals could take another year or two, they said.

In the meantime, Alaska would remain the only coastal state not using the federal Coastal Zone Management law to influence federal actions on its coasts.

Most legislators who voted against continuing the program said they could have backed one of the many various forms the plan to continue the program took in 2011, but not the bill debated this week.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com

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