Alaska Voters Reject Coastal Management Program

Alaska Voters Reject Coastal Management Program
October 10, 2012

Alaska voters soundly defeated a ballot measure that would have added new layers of review to projects affecting the state’s coasts. 

New Layers of Bureaucracy

By a 62 to 38 majority, voters rejected Ballot Measure 2, which would have established the Alaska Coastal Management Program. According to the ballot measure, “The program would develop new state and local standards to review projects in coastal areas of the State. These standards and new permitting procedures would be in addition to existing state and federal permitting requirements.”

The program would also have created a Division of Ocean and Coastal Management and a Coastal Policy Board empowered to coordinate coastal planning projects. The new government entities would have had the power to issue regulations and review proposed activities affecting Alaska’s coast. 

Ballot Measure 2 supporters argued the program would add more local input to projects affecting the coast. Opponents pointed out local communities already have significant input in coastal development decisions and said adding another layer of bureaucracy would stifle economic progress. 

Two Types of Support

“A rational and logical Coastal Zone Management program will not stand in the way of responsibly developing Alaska’s resources. However, Ballot Measure 2 was not a reasonable solution,” said Jeremy Thompson, executive director of the Alaska Policy Forum.

Thompson said there were two kinds of support for the measure. The first is what he called, “don’t touch it” environmentalism. 

“Unfortunately, there are a lot of people outside Alaska who would like to simply shut down our natural-resource economy, even when development is responsible and environmentally safe. These groups are very active on the ground in Alaska, and they are very well funded, sometimes with taxpayer support,” he said. 

The second kind of supporter sought local veto power over development. 

“These supporters saw Ballot Measure 2 as a way for the village, town, or borough government to take more control of resource development in their area even though they do not own the land being developed. Such lands are typically owned by regional native corporations or the state. If local political leaders didn’t like a particular mining project, for example, they could veto these projects through tiny local councils of locals [under the proposal]. It can be viewed as a form of enforceable NIMBYism,” he said. 

The state had a coastal management program that operated for more than 30 years. However, recent efforts to extend the program failed when the Gov. Sean Parnell (R) and the state legislature could not agree on terms. Ballot Measure 2 would have revived the program under terms favored by environmental activists and antigrowth groups.

Alyssa Carducci (ad.carducci@gmail.com) writes from Tampa, Florida.