• Thursday’s “debate” turned into a discussion for packed audience
By Naomi Klouda
The Vote No On 2 group were a no-show at a public debate on Ballot Measure 2 at the Kachemak Bay Campus Thursday, leaving Kenai Peninsula Assemblyman Bill Smith in the position of arguing their points against the measure.
Cook Inletkeeper’s Bob Shavelson, ballot sponsor Mako Haggerty, Rep. Paul Seaton, and Bill Smith fielded the discussion for a packed room. All of them are in favor of the measure though Smith presented the opposition’s objections.
It wasn’t necessarily a debate, but the matter of why it might be important to re-establish the Alaska Coastal Zone Management Program was thoroughly vetted.
“It felt like once people got informed, they clearly preferred Alaskans to have a voice in coastal decisions and that just highlights the other side that is not working to educate, but to scare and confuse them,” Shavelson said.
The Vote No group has raised nearly $767,995.31, with its primary backers listed as Shell Oil, the Alaska Resource Development Council, Conoco-Phillips and the Alaska Miners Association, according to the Alaska Public Offices Commission.
Meanwhile, the Alaska Sea Party, the measure’s proponent, is listed by APOC as having raised $63,688.86, of which 121 contributor gave $100 or less. For public outreach, Vote for the Coast people are “sharing” messages on Facebook with as many people as possible.
One sharing featured three young women who work at Finn’s Pizza saying ‘we would give the shirts off our back to have a voice in coastal decisions.’ They are covered in the signs and little else. It was shared 4,000 times in a single day.
“We realized we needed to raise awareness on the campaign. Due to the fact that we are all-grassroots, and funding was not readily available for advertising, we decided to use the internet in the best way we could. So we facebooked those photos to get some buzz going,” Haggerty said.
The initial contact with the Vote No on 2 group was made by Haggerty several weeks ago, inviting them to the debate. Haggerty was assured someone would represent the group. On Monday, when he called to check for last minute details, he was told by Willis Lyford that they had no one to come to Homer and would have to decline. The public relations firm of Porcaro Communications is Lyford’s employer. It is the agency behind the ad campaign for Vote No on 2, and its official spokesperson.
“We had a packed schedule and you can only do what you can do,” Lyford told the Tribune Friday. “We’ve been very busy these past few weeks with speaking engagements and I had no one to send.”
Smith said he wanted to represent the Vote No camp once he found there would be no representative at the table.
“I went to their website to get into the details of the “no” position. But I didn’t feel it gave the specifics, like about why (CZMP) is called a ‘job killer.’ That was a weakness of their position when they don’t give specifics about how it kills jobs,” Smith said.
Nonetheless, Smith posed all the written arguments given by the group. First he began the Thursday discussion with a history of the Coastal Management Plans in the Kenai Peninsula Borough, which has a 298-page CMP document that is a plan. It was adopted by the borough in 1990, and guided all major developments on borough lands in the coastal zone. Only one project out of hundreds were found to be inconsistent and turned down through the process in the many years of its activity as a “hub” for development projects involving resources. That one project was a proposal by Chevron to remove the boulders for building a dock from Boulder Point. The project was found to be non-consistent in the CMP process when it came up for review, Smith said.
By the time Gov. Frank Murkowski wanted to alter the program in 2003, all coastal zones had to rewrite their plans and they had to be approved by DNR, which would be in charge of all permitting. It took a few years to rewrite the program, and was gutted in the process. It was sunset all together on July 1, 2011. The new coastal plans that the borough had to rewrite could only reflect what DNR approved, Smith said. There were no enforceable policies allowed for energy resources, only advisory ones. One of the issues that the Murkowski administration brought up was the policies of the CMZPs weren’t all the same. They were inconsistent, such as Nome wouldn’t have the same issues as the Peninsula. The CMZ said a company couldn’t do seismic work when salmon fry were in the stream, for example. Since they didn’t have that in a western Alaska CZMP, the state didn’t like it that the peninsula did, Smith said.
The new CMP puts that authority back in to let the district have autonomy to decide its own needs.
Now, if someone were to go to Anchor Point and put in a breakwater and a dock, that is outside the purview of the borough’s CMP. Only the three areas that fall under permitting requirements in the borough would be up for public review. Permits for flood plain development, gravel pits and anything within a 50-foot setback from salmon streams are up for public comments. “Everything else is off the table,” Smith said.
Rep. Seaton said when the legislation came up to keep the CMZP going, in 2011, the Resources Committee came up with the plan.
“It came to the floor as a bill with a lot of holes. But if the administration wanted to work with it, it could have been handled. That’s why I and the whole house voted for it. We made changes,” Seaton said. “It went into a conference committee. The big problem looked at was how much weight would local voice/local knowledge have? The attorney general testified if there were two scientific studies, one good and one bad, they would throw out the bad. But what if you had that bad study and local knowledge? Then the study would overshadow local knowledge. That was unacceptable and that is where that bill fell apart. How to get the balance between science and local knowledge? The state wanted a complete override by a study. Even a junior biologist’s notes or a literature review by someone who never came to Alaska would take precedence. The governor said he would veto it. The House didn’t approve and it died.”
Bob Shavelson said the idea behind enacting the Coastal Zone Management Act was to oversee orderly development along America’s coastline. The federal government enacted the program in 1972. Gov. Jay Hammond implemented it in Alaska in 1979. The program supplied money to the states to pay for offices and to help operate it.
“The other important thing was local control. At each level, federal, state, and local, programs had to be consistent on all levels. In ours, (the local) voice was the borough. In not having the program, it severs the feds from us,” Shavelson said.
The program wasn’t an enforcement policy. It was a public review system where a proposed project in the permitting stages would be looked at to see if it was consistent with what is allowed in the coastal zone, only in the permitting stages. It couldn’t go in after-the-fact and have a say over a hydro project or a bridge.
If the ballot measure passes, the borough planning commission doesn’t have to create a new bureaucracy to create a new program. It can resume the former model to some degree.
Mako Haggerty, who also serves as a borough assemblyman, said he joined Bruce Bottello, Juneau’s mayor, and Mayor Jerome Selby of Kodiak in sponsoring the initiative. But he didn’t do it so that it could be put to a vote. He did it to force the legislature to take a look at re-establishing CZM.
“But they didn’t do it. That’s why we’re here now,” Haggerty said.
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