When people ask me what I think about Ballot Measure 2, the Alaska Coastal Management Program initiative which appears on the August 28 primary election ballot, I tell them that I will be voting no because it goes too far.
I want to see a coastal management system that accomplishes the goals that proponents of Ballot Measure 2 are advocating, but the initiative calls for a new permitting authority with much more regulatory power than what we have seen in the past.
Last year, the Alaska State House passed a bill by a vote of 40 to 0 that would have met these goals. House Bill 106 was supported by both conservationists and resource development groups, and it would have created a fair and reasonable program.
The Alaska Coastal Management Program was established in the 1970s as a way to give coastal states more input in permitting. This came about at a time when citizens were increasingly alarmed with environmental pollution. Federal protections provided by the clean air and water acts were in their infancy. Many current local land-use ordinances and state and federal permitting requirements were not yet in place.
The permitting landscape is much different today than it was in the 1970s.
Proponents of Ballot Measure 2 say that passage of the initiative will preserve Alaska’s voice. It will do much more than that. It will establish an independent board with new, vested authorities over legitimate developments, both large and small, and it will make doing business in Alaska considerably more difficult.
In a recent KCAW News report, former Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Kurt Fredriksson, who served under both Republican and Democratic governors, voiced objection to a new layer of regulatory powers vested in an appointed board that is not accountable to voters.
A newly created coastal policy board would review and approve enforceable policies crafted by coastal districts. These would be policies established by the coastal districts in addition to local, state, and federal permitting requirements already in place. In other words, even if a project were successful in obtaining normal air and water quality permits through federal agencies or the state departments of Environmental Conservation, Fish and Game, or Natural Resources, a project deemed “not consistent” with a local district policy could be denied.
There’s a reason that language like that in Ballot Measure 2 did not pass the legislature: it goes too far. I wouldn’t have supported it then, and I don’t support it now. If Ballot Measure 2 fails on election day, there will be those who will argue that voters rejected the entire concept of coastal zone management. This would be unfortunate. That is why the debate needs to focus on the details of the measure that make it unworkable and how to create a program that is fair and reasonable.
• Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R - Juneau, represents State District 4. She has served in the Alaska House of Representatives since 2009.