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Begich Warns Coastal Zone Program Expiration Has Serious Implications

Alaskans Could Lose Influence over Federal Decisions,

Could Impair Arctic Oil and Gas Development

Expiration of the Alaska Coastal Management Program (ACMP) could have serious implications for numerous federal programs including oil and gas development in the Arctic, U.S. Senator Mark Begich said today.  Legislation to reauthorize the ACMP failed to pass the recent session of the Alaska State Legislature and, without action, the program will cease to exist on July 1.

“Without an approved coastal zone management program, Alaskans will lose an important opportunity to influence federal decision-making in the oceans surrounding our state,” Begich said in a letter to Alaska Governor Sean Parnell, Senate President Gary Stevens and House Speaker Mike Chenault.  “Federal authorities no longer would be required to ensure that their actions in areas such as aquaculture, oil spill response, forestry and mining are consistent with state policies, as the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) currently requires.”

Alaska has participated in the voluntary federal-state partnership under the CZMA since 1979 which ensures state and local interests are addressed in managing coastal resources, and requires federal actions to be consistent with state policies – but only if the state has an approved program.

“My area of greatest concern is how expiration of the ACMP will affect oil and gas development on the North Slope,” Begich warned.  “The Deep Water Port Act requires a state to have, or be making progress toward having an approved coastal zone management program in order to build an off-shore, deepwater port in federal waters.  The gradual slope of the ocean floor off the coast of the North Slope requires one to go many miles offshore to reach water deep enough to accommodate the large, deep-draft vessels associated with oil and gas production and transportation.  Without the ACMP, oil and gas operators will not have the option to develop an offshore deepwater port, which could significantly impair their operations.”

In addition to allowing the federal government to ignore state priorities for ocean resource use, Alaska will lose out on many other opportunities if the program expires:

· The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which has invested more than $151 million in the ACMP to date, has budgeted $2.5 million for the program this year.  The ACMP uses these funds to fight coastal erosion and protect subsistence uses in numerous rural communities statewide;

· The State would no longer be eligible for grants under the federal Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program which is on track to distribute $20 million nationwide in 2011, including funding for an important project on Anchorage’s Campbell Creek;

· Some $28 million remains in the State’s share of funding in the final round of Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP) from Outer Continental Shelf leasing which has been administered by ACMP.   While another State entity may be brought in to administer the program, swift processing of the program funds will require the state to designate a new entity and retain ACMP employees knowledgeable of the process.

This comes at an especially critical time for Alaska when progress is being made in convincing the Obama administration to proceed with Arctic offshore oil development to help address America’s energy and national security needs.

“If the ACMP is allowed to expire, the impacts to the state’s environment and economy will be severe,” Begich warned.  “It is critical that Alaskans have a voice in federal decisions regarding ocean resource development and are well positioned to rapidly develop our enormous offshore oil and gas resources.”


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