Lawmakers Debate Special Session for Coastal Management Program

Alaska lawmakers are being polled today to see if there is enough support to call themselves into special session to deal with the Coastal Management Program. Senate President Kodiak Republican Gary Stevens sent out the email to lawmakers. Senator Stevens was not available Wednesday, but Senate Majority Leader Anchorage Republican Kevin Meyer says if enough lawmakers agree, the session would be held next week on May 31 and would only take a day or two.

The Coastal management program will end by June 30 unless lawmakers and the Governor pass legislation that keeps it going. Meyer says the House version passed unanimously but the Senate tried to tweak it a bit.

Meyer says Bethel Senator Lyman Hoffman and Nome Senator Donny Olson are working to craft a compromise in the hope that lawmakers can quickly pass a bill.

It takes a two thirds majority of the legislature to call a special session. The governor could also call lawmakers back to deal with the issue but he would have to give them 30 days notice so it would have to happen within the next few days to make the deadline before the ACMP dies.

Anchorage Democrat, Senator Bill Wielechowski has been urging action on the law. He says the program has existed for more than 30 years and if it expires, Alaska with more coastline than all other states combined would be the only coastal state not to have a program in place.

Wielechowski says the program allows the state and coastal communities to have a formal seat at the table and impacts federal development on everything from timber in the Tongass to oil and gas development in the Chukchi and Beaufort Sea. It’s also tied to millions in federal funds. He says the federal Deep Water Port Act requires the state to have a coastal management program before a port for resource development could be built.

Wielecowski says he believes a compromise can be achieved quickly and lawmakers would not have to be in Juneau long, but he says if the streamline process goes away for permitting, and the state and local communities lose the ability to be involved, everyone loses.

Senator Meyers says the hope is that a decision regarding the special session can be made by Thursday.

Download Audio (MP3)

Previous articleCitizen Voices Power Town Square 49 – Find Out How
Next articleUnalaska Group Engages in Unusual Spring Cleanup
Lori Townsend is the news director and senior host for Alaska Public Media. You can send her program ideas for Talk of Alaska and Alaska Insight at ltownsend@alaskapublic.org or call 907-350-2058.