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My turn: Vote No to Two

Posted: August 21, 2012 - 12:00am

Since publically speaking out against Ballot Measure 2 I have had some of my friends, family, colleagues, and even my ex-wife ask me what the *%#!! I’m doing. They have heard Ballot Measure 2 is simply restoring the coastal management program that expired in June 2011. They know I spent thirty years working for the state of Alaska on coastal management and environmental protection, and don’t understand why I am speaking out against a measure to restore such a program.

My answer is that Ballot Measure #2 is coastal management in name only, and is nothing like the previous state program. Packaging this measure as something other than what it is may be good public relations, but frankly it is deceptive. In reality, this measure creates a new coastal management program that is unlike anything we’ve ever seen in Alaska.

The previous coastal management program was built on a legal foundation that described in statute the roles and responsibilities of local and state governments in the management, development, and protection of Alaska’s coastal resources. Ballot Measure 2 leaves it up to an appointed Coastal Policy Board to define in regulatory law these important details.

This newly created Coastal Policy Board is not like previous boards. The new Board will not be accountable to the voters or the legislature, and will have broad, powerful authority to regulate “any land or water use or natural resource of the coastal zone…including but not limited to public access, recreation, fishing, historic or cultural preservation, development, hazards management, marinas and floodplain management, scenic and aesthetic enjoyment, and resource creation or restoration projects.”

Ballot Measure 2 creates a new coastal consistency review and approval process in addition to existing local, state, and federal permits. This new government permit requirement, called a consistency determination, will be issued by a newly created Division housed in Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, an agency that does not have a resource management mission and has never been involved in permitting resource development projects.

The 90-day deadline and specific review timeframes for completing a coastal consistency determination mandated by the previous coastal management program have been replaced in Ballot Measure #2 with a far more general provision that the regulations developed by the Coastal Policy Board shall include consistency review procedures that include the “establishment of review timelines.”

The initiative does not provide for a coordinated and predictable permitting process with input from local communities. It adds nothing more than what is currently required for public notice and opportunity for public comment because it does not include the previous legal requirement that coastal districts must be notified and given the opportunity to comment on a resource development project.

Ballot Measure 2 selectively removed many good elements of Alaska’s previous coastal management law and added new requirements for regional ocean planning, which make all industries (fishing, transportation, tourism, development) extremely nervous.

The devil is in the details, and any project or activity in the coastal zone and needs the approval of local, state, or federal government agencies will be impacted. We can’t change or fix any of the defects in this measure. We can only vote on what was written — not what they meant to say or how it might be fixed later.

This vague, poorly drafted Measure, if passed by voters on Aug. 28, becomes enforceable law in the state of Alaska. It is a lawyer’s dream come true. It comes with new obstructionist tools, broad new regulatory powers and no clear regulatory rules. Its flaws and defects will be the subject of lawsuits and court challenges for years to come.

On August 28, we will vote on the language in Ballot Measure 2 ­— not the idea of coastal management, or how unwritten regulations will fix or add important requirements not included in the measure. Alaskans deserve responsible resource management and development based on responsible environmental protection laws. Alaska can’t afford this poorly written and overreaching new measure. We deserve better, and need to Vote No on Ballot Measure 2.

 

• Fredriksson is an environmental policy and regulatory specialist. During his 30-year public service career with the State of Alaska he served as the Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, and Director of the Division of Spill Prevention and Response for the Department of Environmental Conservation. He started his career in the Governor’s Office of Coastal Management first as staff to, and then member of Alaska’s Coastal Policy Council. In recognition of his many contributions to Alaska’s Coastal Management Program, Kurt Fredriksson was awarded the Alaska Coastal Management Lifetime Achievement Award by the Co-chairs of the Alaska Coastal Policy Council.

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