Alaska badly needs a Coastal Management program again, the Juneau Chamber of Commerce was told Thursday.
Where the two debaters disagreed, politely, was on whether Measure 2 on the August ballot is the way to do it.
Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, a supporter of the initiative petition that would bring back a Coastal Management program, said under federal law, states with such programs get control over federal activities on their coastlines.
“We rule over the federal government,” she said. “This is the only program that does that, this is an incredible power,” she said.
Kerttula, a lawyer and former assistant attorney general, spent five years representing the program. She said Coastal Management once gave Alaskan communities a powerful voice in what happened locally, but that is no longer happening after the Legislature failed to renew the program about a year ago.
Facing off in opposition to the ballot measure was Kurt Fredriksson of Juneau, former commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation and current co-chairman of the of the Vote No on 2 committee.
“It doesn’t do the things Beth promises,” he said.
Fredriksson said the measure placed on the ballot after the Alaska Sea Party collected nearly 30,000 signatures doesn’t bring the community control they want.
“Clearly, Alaska needs a stronger voice in federal decision making,” he said, but the initiative isn’t the way to do it. The new Coastal Policy Board the governor will name to oversee the program is an appointed board, not one made up of locally elected officials, and the governor isn’t even on it, he said.
“Unfortunately, with this initiative and the Coastal Policy Board that is going to be created, the governor is nowhere to be seen,” he said.
“He gets to select from names provided by the regions, but he doesn’t sit on the board,” Fredriksson said.
Kerttula responded in addition to the nine members of the board appointed by the governor, four of his commissioners also sit on the board.
Fredriksson said when he worked with the program it had a Coastal Policy Board, in the days before former Gov. Frank Murkowski and the Legislature restructured it in 2003.
“One of the beauties of that board was it was locally elected officials,” he said. “Locally elected officials sat on that board and they were accountable to the citizens of their communities.”
Fredriksson also said the measure was poorly written, and would lead to delay, confusion and possible litigation that could delay projects the state needs.
The initiative doesn’t include clear boundaries and timelines for how Coastal Management should operate, he said.
He urged the Chamber audience to read the initiative for themselves.
“When you read it, it doesn’t have those specific and explicit directions for local government involvement, review timeframes, and a Coastal Policy Board made up of local elected officials,” Fredriksson said.
A Coastal Management program is needed by the state, but not this one, he said.
“If this law is passed, it is going to set us back, it’s not going to let us move forward,” he said.
Kerttula said the broad outlines of the program are included in the initiative that will go into state statute, but the regulations that implement the program will be developed by the administration.
“It would be very arrogant of the drafters to say this is the only way this can work,” she said, when local districts, industry and others should all play a role in developing the regulations.
Chamber Moderator Murray Walsh, a former coastal planner himself, said he was surprised to see the packed Moose Lodge dining room for the presentation.
“To see this much interest now is heartwarming, in a peculiar sort of way,” he said.
• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.