Legislature(2005 - 2006)CAPITOL 124
04/28/2005 08:00 AM COMMUNITY & REGIONAL AFFAIRS
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HB 189-COASTAL MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS 8:27:49 AM CO-CHAIR OLSON announced that the next order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 189, "An Act relating to an extension for review and approval of revisions to the Alaska coastal management program; providing for an effective date by amending the effective date of sec. 45, ch. 24, SLA 2003; and providing for an effective date." 8:28:00 AM CO-CHAIR THOMAS moved to adopt CSHB 189, Version 24-LS0703\G, Bullock, 4/27/05, as the working document. There being no objection, Version G was before the committee. 8:28:19 AM LOUIE FLORA, Staff to Representative Paul Seaton, House State Affairs Standing Committee (HSTA), Alaska State Legislature, began by noting that the House State Affairs Standing Committee [members] just received Version G and although the committee does have concerns, it can live with it. Mr. Flora paraphrased from the following written sponsor statement: The Alaska Coastal Management Program (ACMP) is a partnership between federal, state, and local governments providing state and local governments a voice in federal decision making. Alaska is one of 34 coastal and Great Lakes states and territories that utilize this program, a program that annually channels millions of dollars in federal grant money to the states. The ACMP has helped guide coastal development in the state since it was enacted in 1977. Without the program the state and local governments lose their ability to control development on federal land and the Outer Continental Shelf. In addition the state will lose millions in federal coastal management planning money. In 2003, [House Bill] 191 substantially revised the state coastal program. The federal Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM) must approve the revised program. OCRM has determined that additional revisions are necessary before they can grant approval. The 2003 legislation included state-imposed deadlines for revisions to local coastal programs. Coastal Districts are attempting to follow the statutory directive to revise their programs to meet the new requirements. However, OCRM has identified problems with the state's guidance to local districts regarding the scope and content of their program. The state will have to revise regulatory guidelines for the local districts before the new program can be approved by OCRM. In turn, the local districts will have to revise their programs to meet the new guidelines. It is a waste of time, money and effort for districts to revise their plans before the state's program is federally approved and any necessary changes have been made. MR. FLORA related his understanding that Version G extends the program termination date specified in House Bill 191 from 2003. 8:31:15 AM REPRESENTATIVE NEUMAN inquired as to the problems the House State Affairs Standing Committee has with Version G. MR. FLORA explained that HSTA wanted districts to have enough time to compose their plans. Due to the negotiations between the state and the federal government regarding the ACMP there was a shifting target throughout the winter. Although there was a plan revision mandated in 2003 by House Bill 191, the guidelines kept changing. The HSTA committee wanted to be sure that the districts would have a solid agreement from which to work, but Version G doesn't specifically stipulate that the federal government approves the state program. 8:32:57 AM CO-CHAIR OLSON pointed out that there are three more committees of referral for HB 189. He noted his intent to forward the legislation from the House Community and Regional Affairs Standing Committee. He related his belief that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Department of Administration will have an opportunity to provide more input. 8:33:32 AM CO-CHAIR THOMAS related his understanding that the state and federal governments came to an agreement and [the legislation was changed to allow communities] six months. He related his further understanding that the six-month [extension] was the desire of the communities. MR. FLORA agreed, and then suggested that perhaps a DNR representative could inform the committee of the status of the negotiations. He said he wasn't clear that an agreement had been reached. CO-CHAIR THOMAS relayed that "we" were briefed by the administration that there was an agreement. 8:34:25 AM BILL JEFFRESS, Director, Office of Project Management & Permitting, Department of Natural Resources, said that the briefing from the Governor's Office was accurate. The department has been in negotiations with OCRM since September, specifically with regard to the amendments to the coastal program. An agreement with the federal government regarding how to obtain preliminary approval of the amendment has been reached. The aforementioned will trigger a National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) analysis of the changes. Mr. Jeffress specified that the governor offered and DNR is working toward extending the submittal date for the coastal districts since there are many specific issues that need to be communicated to the districts. The administration supports a six-month extension of the submittal date for the districts. Furthermore, it's critical to extend the state standards for another six months. Without such an extension, the ability to continue doing federal consistency is lost. Furthermore, without these standards there is a chance that [ACMP] would lose its staff and thus even if the program is approved by the end of this year there would be no staff to implement it. Mr. Jeffress highlighted that the governor and the department have committed to the sunset date of existing coastal plans, which would be 18 months from the enactment of the revised regulations that was July 1, 2004. Therefore, this legislation would extend the sunset date for the existing district plans and extend the period during which the coastal districts can submit revised plans to come into compliance with House Bill 191. 8:37:31 AM TOM LOHMAN, Attorney at Law, Environmental Resource Specialist, North Slope Borough, related that the borough strongly supports the extension. The extension is necessary for all the districts to properly address the need to substantially revise the district plan. He informed the committee that most of the plans initially took three to four years to develop. The current requirement is for a complete overhaul of the local plan. Although there has been some contention that districts have not been working diligently to revise the plan since the passage of House Bill 191 in May 2003, he opined that's not true. He reminded the committee that all legislators should've received a letter from the Alaska Coastal District Association explaining why the 27 active coastal districts could not confidently move forward with a revision until earlier this year. There is still great uncertainty among the districts in what they can address in passing local policies under a revised plan, he opined. Some of these questions are significant. For instance, the North Slope Borough has questions regarding policies on subsistence and activities on federal land and the OCS federal waters off the North Slope. At the end of the plan revision, the districts will have less control and authority over local development than under the existing plan. Therefore, time to work with the more than 200 coastal communities represented by the 27 coastal districts is necessary. He predicted that people will be greatly upset that the plans are being gutted. Local communities want and need development, but they want it to occur on their own terms. Furthermore, three of the DNR staff who perform plan reviews and work with the districts are leaving the agency; two of which are leaving in May and the other at the end of the summer. Mr. Lohman said that he didn't see how DNR could effectively review 27 coastal district plans if required to be submitted by July 1, 2005, and work on continuing to revise and modify these plans after submittal without an extension. MR. LOHMAN related that none of the districts like where the administration has taken the program, which is so valued in so many communities. He characterized where the administration is taking the program as bad public policy. He relayed to the committee that there is a rumor that in a later committee there will be an attempt to place a sunset date in HB 189. However, it's entirely unnecessary, he opined, because local residents are the best controllers of development in their communities and have been doing a good job with that. He characterized the 2003 legislation as a solution in search of a problem. Mr. Lohman concluded by opining that the program is valuable and that anything that can be done to return meaningful local control to some extent would be appreciated. Furthermore, he expressed the need to have more time to explain the new program to the locals and attempt to make the best programs possible, which simply can't be accomplished under the current deadlines. 8:42:34 AM JOHN OSCAR, Program Director, Cenaliulriit Lake Coastal Resource Service Area District, informed the committee that the aforementioned district serves 38 villages, which is the largest number of remote communities in the state. This program is important to the remote communities in the state in order to provide an avenue for participation in the decision-making process and addressing local concerns. One of the important local concerns is subsistence and enforceable policies. For example, in Tuluksak there is an application for mining in the headwaters, which was of great concern for the residents. The district was successful in bringing stakeholders together to discuss the matter. He noted that the district is in the process of working with other communities to address the Kuskokwim drainage issue. Mr. Oscar refuted the allegation that these programs have been dragging their feet, and turned attention to an April letter in which the Alaska Coastal District Association identified solid reasons as to why the districts didn't receive solid guidance. The districts only received a draft of the proposed regulations back in February. Mr. Oscar stressed the need for an extension, specifically a one-year extension rather than a six-month extension because the Cenaliulriit district would need more time than others. 8:47:08 AM ANDREW DEVALPINE, Director, Bristol Bay Coastal Resource Service Area, testified in support of the six-month extension in order to elicit more participation in the region. Obtaining meaningful participation before the current deadline is virtually out of the question. 8:48:43 AM NOEL WOODS, Matanuska Valley Sportsman, related that the local administration is claiming that the existing coastal management plan allows them to regulate the waters reserved for public use within the state, such that these areas are closed to various activities and at certain times. However, there has been no definitive explanation for the aforementioned. He related his assumption that this will take some time to resolve, and therefore he said he would appreciate an extension. 8:50:04 AM REPRESENTATIVE NEUMAN commented that he trusts Mr. Woods' judgment on this matter. 8:50:42 AM CO-CHAIR OLSON, upon determining no one else wished to testify, closed public testimony. 8:50:52 AM REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX moved to report CSHB 189, Version 24- LS0703\G, Bullock, 4/27/05, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, CSHB 189(CRA) was reported from the House Community and Regional Affairs Standing Committee.