ACMP initiative sponsors eager to collect signatures

The group behind a citizens’ initiative to re-establish an Alaska Coastal Management Program plans to have signature gatherers in every corner of the state.

Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell approved the Alaska Sea Party’s initiative application yesterday. Organizers expect to receive petition packets in about a week, and will need 25,875 signatures to put the measure on next year’s statewide ballot.

Lead Sponsor, Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho says the group wants that many signatures before the start of the legislative session on January 17th. That would give lawmakers an opportunity to adopt “substantially similar” legislation instead of putting the issue to a vote.

“We are organized. We await the booklets and we will have a presence in every district in the state,” Botelho says.

He declined to say how “substantially similar” any potential legislation would need to be to meet the group’s approval. But he said the initiative language would “set a benchmark.” Botelho said the Sea Party will likely spend about 150-thousand dollars on the petition gathering effort.

The Alaska Coastal Management Program provided one-stop state and federal permitting for developers seeking to build projects along Alaska’s vast coastline. It also gave local communities input during the permitting process.

Without it, initiative co-sponsor, Kodiak Island Borough Mayor Jerome Selby, says more communities will resort to litigation.

“If we don’t have a coastal zone program, we then have react to a decision that has already been made. And as everyone knows, that’s a much more difficult task to try to change a decision that has been made and finalized by the federal government. And realistically about the only effective way of doing that is through lawsuit,” says Selby.

The coastal management program shut down this summer after legislators and the Parnell administration failed to reach an agreement to reauthorize it during the regular and special legislative sessions.

The governor’s office says it will not introduce a bill to re-establish the program, and in an e-mail pointed to a permitting office within the Department of Natural Resources that “allows communities to weigh in numerous times for each project under review.”