ACMP Initiative Sponsors Frustrated By Delays

Sponsors of a citizens’ initiative to re-establish the Alaska Coastal Management Program are frustrated by the Parnell Administration’s apparent foot dragging.

The state still hasn’t given initiative backers the pamphlets they need to begin collecting signatures. The Division of Elections is awaiting cost estimates from the Lieutenant Governor’s Office and the Office of Management and Budget.

Initiative co-sponsor, Kodiak Island Borough Mayor Jerome Selby says it shouldn’t take this long to figure out how much it will cost to run a program that just closed down in July.

“Seems like every opportunity to delay that they take that opportunity,” Selby says. “And it reduces our amount of time to be able to collect the signatures, and give the people in the state of Alaska the chance to have a voice in an important program.”

Selby says sponsors were initially led to believe the booklets would be available last week. The latest delay comes after Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell took the full 60 days to review the initiative application.

Treadwell’s Deputy Chief of Staff Barbara Propes says the cost estimate has taken longer than expected due to the Office of Management and Budget preparing the Governor’s 2013 spending plans, released today (Thursday). She also says the coastal management program outlined in the initiative is more complex than the one that shut down earlier this year.

“We’re looking at the changes and that’s what the department heads were told to do and need to do by law,” says Propes. “To see where and if there were any changes, and to make sure that we have dollars assigned. And that’s basically, pretty routine – I mean, we got it from Law, we sent it to OMB, they’re looking at it, we’re looking to make sure we have all the costs covered and then we’ll get it to print.”

Propes says her best guess is that the final cost report will be headed to Division of Elections “in the next two days.”

Sponsors are hoping to collect about 26-thousand signatures by the start of the legislative session on January 17th. That would guarantee the initiative a spot on the fall 2012 statewide ballot, and give lawmakers an opportunity to enact substantially similar legislation instead. Selby says the group has signature gatherers mobilized in every district in the state. But he says backers hadn’t planned on doing much gathering the week before Christmas.

The coastal management program served as a one-stop federal and state permitting agency for developers hoping to build along Alaska’s coastline. But it also gave local communities an opportunity for input on the projects. It closed after lawmakers and the Parnell Administration failed to reach a deal to keep it open.

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Casey Kelly is a reporter at KTOO in Juneau.

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