JUNEAU — Proponents of an initiative to revive Alaska's coastal management program say they have collected nearly 34,000 signatures.
The announcement was made at a news conference in Anchorage on Tuesday, the same day the Legislature was to convene in Juneau.
The initiative committee, the Alaska Sea Party, must gather 25,875 signatures for the measure to be on the ballot. Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho, initiative chairman, has said the goal is to have 27,000 signatures collected before the legislative session started.
Their goal is to get the issue on this year's ballot unless the Legislature passes a measure substantially similar to the one the initiative proposes.
Sponsors said they don't plan to actively lobby state legislators to resurrect the program, but if lawmakers do so in a form similar to their initiative, they would no longer seek to get it on the ballot.
House Minority Leader Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, said Tuesday that the Legislature should lead on the coastal management issue.
The people have spoken loudly in support of the initiative and the Legislature should respond to that, Kerttula said before the signature total was announced.
Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, said he doesn't envision a measure substantially similar to the proposal passing the House or being accepted by the governor.
Gov. Sean Parnell said in October that he didn't plan to introduce legislation establishing a coastal management program during the upcoming session. Parnell said at the time it was premature to say whether the state needs a new program.
Alaska's old coastal program died June 30 after failed attempts by state lawmakers last session to save it.
The demise last year of the state's coastal management program came as coastal communities sought more input in development decisions that could impact their way of life, particularly with the future potential of offshore oil and gas development.
The initiative to revive the program calls for a coastal policy board that would provide local input in evaluating the effectiveness of district coastal management plans.
It also says the board would approve district plans if, among other things, they address a coastal use or resource of concern as demonstrated by local knowledge or supported by scientific evidence. Questions about what role scientific evidence and local knowledge should play were major sticking points during the legislative debate.
The Alaska Federation of Natives endorsed the proposal in October.