By Dave Donaldson
The Legislature’s auditor has released her findings and recommendations for the future of the state’s Coastal Management Program. The program is designed to involve coastal residents in any development in their areas – giving them input in government decisions at both the state and federal levels.
The audit was prompted by last year’s legislative debate when lawmakers from coastal communities unsuccessfully attempted to expand the program. This year, those same interests are combined with the scheduled closing of the program at the end of June. Two bills have been introduced to extend the program unchanged, but supporters have deferred decisions on expansion until the audit was complete.
House Finance Co-Chair Bill Thomas of Haines, predicts changes pointed out by one audit finding that criticized the Department of Natural Resources’ policy forbidding outside consultants from helping coastal communities. However, Thomas downplays the final audit’s role in any plans for expansion of the program.
I think we’re a long ways from coming anywhere yet. It’s beyond my realm of play. We’ll watch and see. I think the oil industry and the North Slope Borough and some bigger players will be involved in this one.
The audit primarily focused on management, transparency and communications with local management bodies — finding faults in record keeping and in steps that have resulted in a lack of consensus-building that the program was designed to facilitate.
Senate Finance Co-Chair Lyman Hoffman of Bethel says he plans to meet next month with the director of the federal coastal management system. He says he wants to find out how the program works in other oil-producing states – and particularly to find out how the state’s program fits in with the intent of federal law. He says the audit has pointed to possible changes to Alaska’s program.
It does give direction, particularly in what the administration is not doing. It would be interesting to look at some of the recommendations.
Neither of the simple extension bills has yet been scheduled for hearings.