Local News

Despite loss, coastal program push goes on

Despite the failure of Ballot Measure Two, Alaska could still reestablish its Coastal Management Program. Lawmakers and activists on both sides of the vote expect the issue will come before the legislature again next session. Matt Lichtenstein Reports:

Part of the waterfront in Petersburg, one of Alaska’s many coastal communities. Image taken from The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Shorezone website.


Opponents of the Coastal Management initiative painted it as a bad law that would hurt Alaska’s economy. Vote No on Two campaign spokesperson Willis Lyford thinks that message resonated with voters in Tuesday’s primary:

“You know it wasn’t a simple re-institution or reinstatement of the old Coastal Management Program. We think that message got across. This was something new and different and it was going to be complex and not good for Alaska long term,” Lyford says.

To get that perspective out, Lyford’s group raised over one-and-a-half million dollars mostly from oil companies, mining interests, and other development organizations.

The measure’s backers, the Alaska Sea Party, raised far less. They brought in over 200 thousand dollars total. Most of the contributions came from individuals along with local government and native groups.

Sea Party Chair and Juneau Mayor Bruce Bothello says his group is disappointed in the vote but also heartened in some ways. He points out that many initiative opponents said they supported having some sort of coastal management program, just not the one on the ballot:

“I’m hopeful they will work with us towards a meaningful coastal management program in the 2013 session. I think we also felt that we have at least succeed in bringing a level of public awareness about the importance of coastal management to the state and having that knowledge base out there will be helpful to ultimately seeing it reestablished,” Bothello says.

Bothello thinks the big disparity in campaign spending and the traditionally lower turnout for primary elections both played a part in the initiative’s defeat.

The Alaska Coastal Management Program shut down in 2011 after the legislature and governor failed to renew it. The program helped coordinate the environmental review and planning for proposed development along Alaska’s coasts for more than 30 years.

By restarting the program, supporters emphasized the ballot measure would allow for more local and public input to make sure, for instance, a project didn’t damage an important resource like juvenile fish habitat.

Some opponents, like Ketchikan Representative Kyle Johansen, agree with the value of that input. He says having a coastal zone program is probably the right thing to do but he thinks the initiative went to far.

“There are better ways to write this bill. We had two options last year. A straight simple extension of the current plan would have worked for me. Or, the bill that we passed out of the house forty to nothing would have worked for me. But this piece of legislation that was on the ballot yesterday went far beyond those proposals and I couldn’t support it. So I’m pleased that we’re not under that law Right now,” Johansen says.

Johansen expects another bill to reestablish the program will be introduced next session. So does Juneau representative Beth Kerttula. Kerttula was an outspoken advocate for the initiative and she’s proud of the support it did receive especially among individual residents and coastal communities. She’s staying optimistic for the future.

“I have a hope. We’ll see, but I have a hope that we’ll go into session and try to put a bill together that we can agree on to bring back our coastal program. It’s so important for the state. You know, to be the only state in the union without a coastal program. It affects everything from fish farming to oil and gas, to controlling having smart development” :26

Nearly 62 percent of Alaska Voters said no to the Coastal Management initiative and just over 38 percent supported it.

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