City approves changes, extension of Alaska Coastal Management Plan

Posted: Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Juneau joined a group of municipalities rallying support for changes in the Alaska Coastal Management Plan (ACMP), after the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly passed a resolution it hopes will give it and other cities a larger voice in planning.

The Assembly supported the resolution 6-2 at its meeting Monday, with Assemblywoman Mary Becker and Assemblyman Merrill Sanford opposed and Assemblyman David Stone absent. The resolution agreed to an extension of the existing plan, which will sunset on July 1 unless the Alaska Legislature takes action.

The bigger movement with the resolution, however, lies within the amendments. The amendment disagrees with the 2003 and 2005 changes to the plan, which removed any municipal responsibility by taking away the ability to establish locally enforceable policies, air and water quality reviews, and removed the Coastal Policy Council that facilitated public input. The ACMP is now the sole responsibility of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.

The resolution expresses support for re-establishing a coastal policy board, returns air and water quality issues to the ACMP consistency reviews, eliminates requirements for designation of subsistence use areas and allows for meaningful enforceable policies.

Kathy Wasserman, executive director of the Alaska Municipal League, said this resolution was drafted with municipalities in November during the league’s conference.

“Most municipalities realize we must partner with industry in many ways to make our communities better places to live,” she said.

Wasserman explained the history of the changes, and said the plan is currently confusing to municipalities because they are unsure exactly what they are allowed to do. Municipalities in the state, she said, favor the plan as it existed prior to 2003.

“We have believed that the other main thing, is when the state is allowed to make the controlling decision onto what should happen with coastal zone management, which right now is one person in the DNR, they don’t know what the issues are with each municipality,” she said. “(Municipalities) at least want to have a seat at the table.”

Assemblyman Bob Doll asked how many communities in Alaska are members of the AML. Wasserman said all 164 municipalities.

Joe Geldhof, an attorney for Responsible Cruising in Alaska, also voiced support for the resolution.

“It’s a reasonable measure of a response for a situation that was largely cured in the ‘80s, and worked fairly well through the ‘90s,” he said. “It’s a process that will allow people in impacted areas to look at projects.”

Clark Gruening, the city’s lobbyist, said there are two bills in the Legislature now that would give municipalities a larger role in the ACMP.

He said no bill came forward on the House side last session. Currently in progress is a bill in the Senate this session, however Greening believes it won’t move very far forward unless action moves forward in the House as well.

Sanford supported extending the current method, however he opposed moving forward on the amendments until the impact was researched. He said back when the city did have its own regulations, it had 99 of them.

Sanford said if the city adds back in extensive policies again it puts a roadblock in place for development.

“I would really like to know exactly what we’re getting into here,” he said.

Becker asked for an amendment to have a new sunset date of three years past implementation for the amendments. Her motion failed.

Assemblymen Bob Doll, Jonathan Anderson and Johan Dybdahl supported the resolution with the amendments. Anderson and Doll said that yes, the process will take time, however they feel the benefits outweigh the wait.

In other business, the Assembly unanimously approved a resolution for co-applying with the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council on a National Endowment of the Arts grant to develop a plan for a cultural and arts facility. Lands department manager Heather Marlow said the grant would allow the project to be designed to the point where it could start seeking building funds. She said they would be looking at a facility that meets an unfilled need in Juneau — perhaps a theater that would support more than a couple hundred patrons, as currently exists.

The Assembly also unanimously approved updating the penal code to make synthetic cannabinoids illegal for use, sale, manufacturing, assembly, marketing or possession. The code comes ahead of pending state legislation outlawing the substances.

The ordinance states “some users of synthetic cannabinoids endanger the public by operating vehicles while under the influence and endanger the welfare of first responders” and that “some users reportedly experience severe reactions, resulting in unconsciousness, seizures and hospitalization.”

The penalties for violation of the law include class ‘A’ and ‘B’ misdemeanors, depending upon severity. Fines for a first time offense are $100, $200 for second and $300 for third or more.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at

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