Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell concluded a series of public hearings about the Ballot Measure 2 establishing an Alaska Coastal Management Program, with both sides of the issue seeking support from those in the middle.
Supporters said passing the measure gives Alaskans the ability to stand up against the federal government, while the opponents said the were concerned it would be used to block development.
The Coastal Management initiative is the first since new public involvement rules were adopted that call for hearings around the state to inform the public on the questions they were being asked to decide.
Treadwell said that in the case of initiatives, the voters, not the legislators or governor, have the final say on the law.
“You, the citizens, are the lawmakers in this case,” he said.
Mayor Bruce Botelho, chairman of initiative sponsor Alaska Sea Party, presented the case for the initiative. Opposing it was Kurt Fredriksson, co-chair of the Vote No on 2 campaign.
Botelho said the state needs a Coastal Management program, and the voters needed to create one after the failure of the state’s elected officials to renew the one Alaska had.
“Last year in regular session and two special sessions the Legislature and the governor could not agree to terms for the program’s extension,” he said.
That has left Alaska as the only coastal state without a Coastal Management program, he said.
Despite receiving votes for some type of Coastal Management program from 55 of 60 legislators, the Legislature was unable to resurrect the program, he said, leaving it up to the voters.
Botelho described the division in the Legislature as being over the “allocation of power between the state and communities.”
“Our initiative opts for greater community involvement,” he said.
Fredriksson said the initiative went beyond what the state had when the program ended, and instead had differences that were “striking and far reaching.”
The initiative includes the ability to regulate activities such as fishing and scenic and aesthetic enjoyment.
The initiative, he said, “doesn’t come close to restoring the prior coastal management program,” Fredriksson said.
Botelho called the initiative “pro-community,” and said, “Coastal Management is also pro-development” by simplifying permitting.
“Finally this initiative is pro-Alaskan,” he said.
Industry representatives disputed that.
Mike Satre, the Juneau-based executive director of the Council of Alaska Producers, acknowledged that Coastal Management was pro-community, but disputed the rest.
If it was pro-development, he said, his mining group, and oil, forest, tourism and other resource groups, wouldn’t be opposing it.
“This initiative is not pro-development, and can’t be pro-Alaskan because Alaska depends on resource development for its very survival,” Satre said.
Lisa Weissler, a former Department of Law attorney who represented the former Coastal Management program, said that, at the time it ended, it had already been subject to changes that she said were “mostly designed to stifle local voices.”
The initiative was intended to restore community say, she said.
Sealaska Corp. Executive Vice President Rick Harris urged adoption, saying it had been used by locals to stand up to the federal government.
“We were able to use the coastal zone (program) as a way to push back,” he said.
Margo Waring of the League of Women Voters said the organizations local and state boards supported giving local communities more authority over their coasts
“It is not right that our state, with its enormous coast … does not have a Coastal Management Program,” she said.
But Fredriksson, who used to run the program, and the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, said it would do that.
“It’s sure to invite legal battles that will frustrate the needs of local communities,” he said.
Voters will decide the issue at the Aug. 28 primary election, Treadwell said.
• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or firstname.lastname@example.org