Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 4:03 PM on Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Vote Yes: Measure gives Alaskans seat at the table

By Mako haggerty

In 1972, the federal government created the Coastal Zone Management Program (CZMP). This was an invitation to the states to participate in decisions regarding development along their coastlines. Under the leadership of Gov. Jay Hammond, the Alaska Coastal Management Plan (ACMP) was passed by the Legislature in 1977, and the plan was approved by the federal government in 1979. Alaskans began taking control of our own resources. This was a giant step toward being what Gov. Walter Hickel called the "owner state," and away from being a resource colony.

Since then there have been many attempts to wrest that status away from Alaska. In 2003, Gov. Frank Murkowski gutted ACMP, making it easier for corporate interests to develop in our coastal zones without the important, and needed, input from coastal residents. Finally last year the Legislature, with the encouragement of the Parnell administration, let ACMP fade into the sunset when they failed to reauthorize the coastal management plan. Without this tool the federal government has complete control over development decisions made in our "front yard."

Alaska's Coastal Management Plan, at one time, was held up as one of the best in the nation, for good reason. Alaska has more coastline than all the other Lower 48 states combined, and we have the richest ocean and coastal resources left in America. Our coastal management program once had active coastal districts with local knowledge helping to shape local development decisions. Alaskans had a seat at the table to ensure local businesses and uses were respected and protected.

And the program served as a one-stop permitting hub to coordinate and facilitate smooth and timely project approvals. But the corporations looking to profit off our coastal resources didn't like it. They didn't like local communities having a say in local development decisions. So they lobbied to kill the program.

I am a member of the Alaska Sea Party. We worked hard to recreate, and restore, a management plan that was true to the original intent of giving a voice to those who live and work along our coastline, Alaska's front yard. We gathered more than the 26,000 signatures needed to get this initiative on the ballot prior to the beginning of the legislative session, giving the Legislature one last chance to act by coming up with their own plan. Still they failed to do what's right, giving Alaskans a seat at the table.

Opponents of the initiative will tell you that this is a federal takeover. The opposite is true. Without ACMP the federal government has full control over our coastal lands.

The opponents of this plan will say "it's another layer of bureaucracy." In fact the ACMP helped developers navigate an already complex permitting process.

You will hear it's a "job-killer." This is a laugh. ACMP helps developers get through the permitting process, and here on the Kenai Peninsula we helped expedite the permitting.

They will tell you that it gives veto powers to members of the commission. This is simply not true.

Opponents of the ACMP will tell you that it is costly. They have been spewing inflated numbers in an effort to scare you, the voter. Don't be manipulated by their misinformation. Gov. Parnell's own commissioner of the Department of Commerce and Community Development, Susan Bell, has said that the proposed ACMP in Ballot Measure 2 will have an annual cost of $2.9 million, not the $5.4 million that the opponents are claiming, a small price to pay for having a voice over what happens in our front yard.

These opponents, Alaska Oil and Gas Association, Alaska Mining Association and the Resource Development Council have a lot of money and resources dedicated to the defeat of this citizen initiative.

What you have is something much more powerful: a vote. Please use it this Aug. 28 to say we want to be an "owner state," not a resource colony.

Mako Haggerty is a Kachemak Bay water taxi owner/operator. He also is a sponsor of Ballot Measure 2 and represents District 9, the southern Kenai Peninsula, on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly.