• SB 148 upholds intended exemption of Homer port business from critical habitat following governor signature
By Hannah Heimbuch
Alaska’s Governor Sean Parnell signed Senate Bill 148 into law this week, officially removing the Homer Port and Harbor from the Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Area. The statute in question did not previously address the intended exemption of the harbor from the protected area. The left-out exemption would allow the municipality to operate under standard state and federal environmental safety regulations for a port and harbor, rather than critical habitat restrictions.
Bill supporters said the classification cost the Homer port time and money as it sought permits for building and repair projects that fell under standard port operations.
Sponsoring Sen. Peter Micciche called the existing regulatory hurdles impractical and inefficient for a working port, and that the change would not remove Kachemak Bay’s protections, simply establish the intended functional exemption.
“The City of Homer is very pleased that SB 148 has been adopted by the senate and the house and signed by Gov. Parnell,” said Homer Mayor Beth Wythe this week. “The City would like to thank Sen. Micciche for sponsoring this legislation and for his strong support through the entire process, from drafting through adoption.”
The bill had the unanimous support of the Homer City Council, as well as support from Rep. Paul Seaton and Speaker Mike Chenault.
“SB 148 implements the original intent of the Kachemak Bay Critical Habitat Plan when it was drafted by excluding the Homer Port and Harbor from its boundaries,” Wythe said. “The City anticipates that this legislation will create jobs and economic expansion in Homer and stimulate growth and development in Cook Inlet.”
Homer is Cook Inlet’s only deep water port that remains ice-free year round, and has been established as a Port of Refuge by the U.S. Coast Guard. It harbors safety equipment designated for environmental and marine safety and emergency marine response.
“The City believes this legislation will have little or no adverse impact on the Critical Habitat Area,” Wythe said, “and may result in improved environmental protection and emergency response in marine waters.”
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