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Governor Parnell Signs Bill Supporting the Homer Economy While Continuing to Protect Kachemak Bay

Senate Bill 148 Excludes Homer Port and Harbor from Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Area

JUNEAU-Yesterday, Governor Sean Parnell signed Senate Bill 148, sponsored by Senator Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna), which clarifies state law to exclude the Port and Harbor of Homer from the Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Area (KBCHA). 

“In a nutshell, SB 148 is about recognizing the balance between jobs and environmental protection. The KBCHA provides critical protection for the incredible natural resources of Kachemak Bay, which provides the foundation for Homer and the Lower Kenai Peninsula’s economy, lifestyle and unique quality of life,” said Senator Micciche. “This new law supports marine trade jobs while improving environmental protection in Kachemak Bay and Cook Inlet by providing safe harbor for the over-winter mooring, maintenance, repair and emergency services of oil and gas exploration and support vessels and related equipment.

SB 148 clears up the discrepancy between the Kachemak Bay and Fox River Flats Critical Habitat Areas Management Plan and the state law establishing the KBCHA. The Plan included specific language excluding municipal lands and harbor areas within the critical habitat areas, such as the Port of Homer from the KBCHA. However, the associated state statute failed to codify the exemption which created questions about the enforceability of the municipal lands exemption and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s (ADF&G) ability to permit certain legitimate activities at the port.

Homer is the only year-around ice free, deep water port in Cook Inlet. The facility has been designated as a Port of Refuge by the U.S. Coast Guard and maintains the assets required to improve marine safety, respond to emergencies at sea and to enhance environmental protection.

“The City of Homer is very pleased that SB 148 has become law with the signature of Gov. Parnell,” said Homer Mayor Beth Wythe. “The City would like to thank Sen. Micciche for sponsoring this legislation and for his strong support through the entire process, from drafting through adoption. SB 148 implements the original intent of the Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Plan,” Wythe said “and the City anticipates that this legislation will create jobs and economic expansion in Homer and stimulate growth and development in Cook Inlet.”

Matt Alward of the Homer Marine Trades Association was invited by Senator Micciche to attend the bill signing. Matt said, “SB 148 will allow the Homer Port and Harbor to more fully function as a port facility. This means more traffic, more landings and more jobs for marine trades professionals that are so important to the Homer and District O economy”.

“The support for SB 148 by Governor Parnell, Speaker Chenault and the remainder of the Legislature (where the bill passed 54-0) is very much appreciated by the folks from District O. The City of Homer has experienced costly and time-consuming permitting hurdles for construction projects in the port and harbor, including projects simply replacing existing harbor infrastructure,” said Senator Micciche. “The bill removes hurdles that are impractical and inefficient for a large municipal port and harbor facility, however also ensures that activities conducted at the Homer Port and Harbor remain subject to all applicable state and federal statutes and regulations governing ports in environmentally valuable marine waters”.

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