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SEA PARTY DELIVERS 33,500 SIGNATURES

Grassroots Group Exceeds Goal In Effort To Restore Coastal Management

(Anchorage)  Today, the Alaska Sea Party delivered to the Alaska Division of Elections more than 33,500 signatures endorsing a statewide ballot initiative to restore Alaska’s coastal management program.  Last month, the grassroots group set out to gather 26,000 signatures by the start of the legislative session in order to place the initiative on the 2012 election ballot – an unprecedented effort in the history of citizen activism in Alaska.

“Alaskans have told us in overwhelming terms they want their voices heard,” Bruce Botelho, a lead sponsor of the initiative, said.  “It is deeply heartening to see such strong, widespread support for bringing back an important program that gives the state and local communities a meaningful say in decisions that affect coastal development and resources.”

Sea Party officials will now watch to see if the Alaska State Legislature passes a substantially similar law.  If that happens, the initiative will prove unnecessary.  But if the signatures are verified and the legislature fails to act, the initiative will appear on the August primary election ballot.

“We lost an important tool with the sunset of the program,” Representative Beth Kerttula, a long-time program supporter, said.  “If the question goes to the voters, Alaskans will be able to reclaim their voices, regain their seats at the table, and restore coastal management.  We’ll get that tool back.”

The Sea Party seeks to ensure Alaskans have a meaningful role in coastal development decisions. The initiative would establish a 13-member Alaska Coastal Policy Board to oversee development of the new program.  The program’s aims include balancing competing demands on coastal resources and uses, providing Alaskans with a strong voice in state and federal coastal activities, and establishing a coordinated permit review process.

“Clearly, Alaskans recognize a well-crafted coastal program promotes economic development,” Mako Haggerty, a Kenai Peninsula Borough assemblyman and an initiative sponsor, said.  “By streamlining project authorizations, resolving disputes up front, and reducing litigation, we can have diverse and responsible development in Alaska’s coastal areas.”

After working well for over 30 years, Alaska’s previous coastal program expired in the summer of 2011 when the legislature failed to agree to extend the program. 

The Alaska Sea Party attracted financial contributions and volunteer assistance statewide to distribute petition booklets and gather signatures from Barrow to Ketchikan.  For example, even in the face of blistering cold in Bethel and catastrophic snowfall in Cordova, both communities contributed many signatures. 

“It’s humbling and encouraging to welcome so many Alaskans’ support,” Botelho said.  “Their dedication and commitment bodes well for the future of coastal management in Alaska.” 

For more information, go www.alaskacoastalmanagement.org

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