Communities, state clash over coastal development

Posted: Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Coastal communities are asking the Legislature for more authority to decide what happens in their communities, but Gov. Sean Parnell and pro-development legislators say they’re afraid communities may try to stop projects the state needs.

Alaska’s Coastal Zone Management Program gives 35 local coastal districts a say in issues ranging from up into watersheds to out to the continental shelf.

But there’s a looming deadline. The Legislature must reauthorize the ACMP before the end of the fiscal year, June 30.

“A bill must be passed this session to extend ACMP, or the program terminates,” said Randy Bates, director of the Division of Coastal and Ocean Management in the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.

The deadline is adding pressure to conflict between communities and the governor.

Parnell has asked the Legislature to renew the program for six years, without giving communities the say they want.

Coastal legislators have responded by suggesting a one-year renewal, to put pressure on the administration during the next year and get more authority.

Bates Monday told the House Resources Committee one year wasn’t long enough and was “not in the best interests of the people involved.”

“My staff needs some security to be able to get down to business,” he said.

Parnell has shown no interest in giving the local communities the kind of authority they want.

“When you have a statewide asset, a local community should not have veto authority,” Parnell told reporters earlier in the session.

Parnell said his administration would listen to local concerns, but make a decision on the state’s behalf.

“I believe local communities deserve a voice in that process,” he said, but they already have it through the ACMP.

The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly last week passed a resolution urging legislative action that allows it, and other costal cities, to have authority under ACMP to pass locally enforceable policies.

Bates said the state’s goal was not to block developments, but to see if there is a way to modify them if need be.

The idea, he said, is to see that economic development occurs, but the environment is protected as much as possible.

Rep. Bob Herron, D-Bethel, told Bates that communities aren’t seeking the ability to kill projects, but want concerns listened to.

“I don’t think any district wants veto power, the just want legitimate input,” he said.

Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, has accused Parnell of hypocritically asserting the state’s authority over local communities, while complaining when the federal government does the same thing to Alaska.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 586-4816 or at

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