Alaska Federation of Natives Endorses Coastal Initiative
Annual Gathering Favors Ballot Measure to Revive Coastal Management
The state's foremost organization of Alaska Natives has stepped forward at its annual convention to support a ballot initiative to form a coastal management program. Alaska Federation of Natives delegates voted unanimously today to approve a resolution endorsing the initiative to revive coastal management.
Alaska has nearly 40 percent of the entire coastline of the United States, but is the only state without a program to coordinate management of these important areas. Thousands of Alaskans live near the coast, but because Alaska doesn't have a coastal management program, they have no voice in important decisions affecting coastal areas.
North Slope Borough Mayor Edward Itta supported the resolution. "The big resource development projects are in rural Alaska, and rural communities are generally strong supporters of these projects," Mayor Itta said. "If we work together early in the process, the chances of a timely and successful start are much better than if local people are just left out in the cold. Coastal management never stopped a project in the past. It just gave communities a stake in the project. What's not to like about that?"
State coastal management programs and local coastal management plans guarantee state and local participation in coastal development and a seat at the table during federal decision making. After operating successfully for 34 years, Alaska's Coastal Zone Management Program died when the Alaska Legislature failed in 2011 to renew it during both the regular session and two special sessions called in part to restore the program. Without a program in place, federal agencies need not consult state or local officials on questions of coastal development.
If the petition is signed by some 26,000 Alaska voters, and if the Alaska Legislature fails to enact substantially similar legislation during the 2012 regular session, "An Act establishing the Alaska Coastal Management Program" will appear on either the August 2012 Primary or the November 2012 Alaska General Election ballot. If voters approve the measure, the Act will create a coastal management program to replace the one dismantled in 2011.
The initiative is sponsored by the Alaska Sea Party, a group of municipal officials, local leaders, and interested voters committed to Alaska involvement in coastal development decisions. City and Borough of Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho chairs the Alaska Sea Party's steering committee. He filed the initiative along with Kodiak Island Borough Mayor Jerome Selby and Kenai Peninsula Borough Assemblyman Mako Haggerty.
"When the Alaska Coastal Management Program was eliminated earlier this year, Alaska became the only state to weaken its oil spill prevention and response requirements," Botelho said. "Alaskans don't want another Exxon Valdez disaster, and they're tired of the political bickering that killed the very program that could prevent a similar tragedy."