Coastal management program to end in six weeks

After Legislature ends program, new jobs sought for staff

Managers at the state’s Division of Coastal and Ocean Management met with staff Monday, following the Legislature’s surprise action over the weekend to allow the program to end at the end of fiscal year, June 30.

“We are doing everything we can to find them reasonable employment outside coastal management,” said Randy Bates, the division’s director.

Of Coastal Management’s 33 employees, 22 are based in Juneau, with the remainder in Anchorage. Bates said they are looking at employee skill sets now.

“We are talking with other departments that might employ similarly experienced staff such as Fish and Game, Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development and (Department of Environmental Conservation), their commissioners are looking at vacancies they may have to see if there is an opportunity for our staff to move into those positions,” he said.

Saturday afternoon it appeared the program, scheduled to sunset at the end of the current fiscal year, would be saved when a conference committee trying to bridge the gap between Senate and House of Representative plans to extend the program appeared to reach agreement.

The House, however, failed to approve the agreement, voting it down 20-15, with five members, including some likely supporters, absent. Bill passage takes a minimum 21 votes in the 40-member body.

Rather than return to the conference committee for another try at agreement, House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, adjourned the special session, three days before the Tuesday deadline to end the 30-day special session limit.

Shocked Juneau delegates were all supporters of the deal.

After adjournment late Saturday night, Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, talked with Gov. Sean Parnell’s chief of staff, Mike Nizich.

She said Nizich has assured her that the governor’s office would do everything it could to find new jobs for those slated to lose them.

The impact of the end of the Coastal Management program could also be felt beyond state’s 33 direct employees. Bates said that about half of its $5 million budget goes for personnel services, but much of the remainder goes out in grants to other agencies.

The state’s 28 coastal districts, one of which is Juneau, divide about $1 million that is used for coastal planning, he said. Juneau this year received about $38,000.

“As of July 1 there will be no new money,” Bates said. “That could have staffing impacts in Juneau, Sitka, North Slope Borough, all around the state,” he said.

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

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