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Millett, Johansen want coastal zone talks

Posted: February 2, 2012 - 8:09pm

JUNEAU — At least two state House members want early, substantive debate on coastal management.

Reps. Charisse Millett and Kyle Johansen said they don’t want the subject caught in the end-of-session shuffle, as it was last year. Lawmakers failed to reach agreement on revamping the program, leading to its demise.

A proposed ballot initiative seeks to revive participation in the coastal zone program, which would let Alaska put conditions on certain activities, such as development, on federal lands and waters. 

Lawmakers can pre-empt the measure, if it qualifies for the ballot, by passing substantially similar legislation.

Millett, R-Anchorage, favors using the bill that passed the House unanimously last year as a starting point. 

That measure was billed as a compromise that would give communities a voice on resource development issues but not let them impede projects the state deemed to be in Alaska’s best interests. 

Several House members expressed misgivings, despite their votes, and the measure was reworked in the Senate. The House later rejected a conference committee compromise, and further efforts to save the program failed.

Coastal communities sought a greater say in development decisions that could affect their way of life, particularly with the potential of offshore oil and gas development. 

Millett asked a legislative attorney whether a bill similar to HB106, which cleared the House, would be substantially similar. Alpheus Bullard, in a memo, said the proposed initiative could be seen to differ because it provides for greater local participation and control than HB106. Bullard said the proposal also would end direct state control of the program, investing it in a coastal policy board.

Bullard said it’s hard to say how the lieutenant governor, or a court, might rule on the issue of substantial similarity. But he said drafting a bill that provides greater local control and participation than the former program did, and HB106 would have, could only help the effort of having it deemed substantially similar.

Johansen, R-Ketchikan, said his cursory read of the memo suggests HB106 is “within the definition of substantially similar.”

Legislative leadership also has requested a legal opinion on the matter.

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