I think everyone will agree Alaska has to develop its natural resources in order to have an economy, but I think Gov. Murkowski is misinformed and mistaken in his so-called "streamlining" plans.
Permits are not obstacles that hinder resource development. The permitting process is a means to manage the impacts that resource extraction and tourism have on habitat in our state.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is not equipped nor is it willing to be the lead agency charged with implementing the Alaska Coastal Management Program (ACMP). It is also a mistake to transfer Title 16 Habitat permitting from Fish and Game to DNR. DNR does not have the expertise to manage for habitat, nor does it have the expertise in ACMP issues.
We do not need to eliminate the Division of Governmental Coordination (DGC) in order to revitalize the natural resource and tourism industries. The ACMP network is a coordinated program that involves federal, state and local agencies that relies heavily on networking and expertise of various agencies and communities to implement the ACMP. It is counter-productive to think eliminating DGC will spur industry and break down the hurdle of permitting.
Responsible development is extremely important for the future of Alaska and its resources. We need not destroy the bounty of it by throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Murkowski is making a big mistake.
The mandate of DFG-Habitat is to protect habitat. They do not simply oppose everything just for the fun of slowing industry. They are charged with protecting habitat.
The Juneau golf course was not hindered by DFG-Habitat. The Juneau golf course project was hindered by many other things. Development of a golf course is a heavy undertaking. Developers are expected to deal with habitat, wetlands, water quality and other factors. I find it appalling the governor would consider removing permitting programs and a whole office of committed people because of a golf course project in Juneau.
These steps will substantially reduce the environmental requirements necessary to reduce the major impacts industry has in Alaska. The time factor is moot. Make the process better by educating industry, not giving them a golden ticket to do whatever they want. We have to protect Alaska for the future, not destroy it by mindless "streamlining" measures. These measures are a Band-Aid fix to a major problem.
S. Royalton, Vt.
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