February 23, 2005 --- Vol. 11, No. 20February 2005

Alaska rejects new NOAA ACMP mandates

Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski said today that he has sent a letter to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration asking the agency to abandon new requirements for the Alaska Coastal Management Program. If NOAA’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management “does not immediately abandon the new requirements and broken promises” in its Jan. 28 decision, the governor said, the Alaska Coastal Management Program will expire in the summer of 2005.

Alaska voluntarily implemented the ACMP program in 1979, but after 25 years, the governor said, the program had become a complex, confusing set of requirements that delayed projects in Alaska without corresponding environmental benefits. Discontent with the program grew, and in 1997 a bill was introduced to repeal it.

In 2003 the Legislature passed a bill which mandated a simplified program. The state then worked with NOAA to develop an amended program that met Alaska’s needs. The governor said talks proceeded constructively until January, with NOAA identifying minor changes to the ACMP regulations.

But on Jan. 28, NOAA denied Alaska’s amended ACMP and, the governor said, seeks to impose duplicative, complex and burdensome requirements that do not increase environmental protection.

“Alaskans deserve a coastal management program that works for Alaska,” Murkowski said, and called the NOAA requirements “another example of the federal government dictating from afar program requirements that don’t make sense in Alaska. I promised to stand up to the federal government when they overreach their authority — and through this action I am upholding that commitment.”

A joint letter to Alaskans from the commissioners of the departments of Natural Resources, Fish and Game, Environmental Conservation and Commerce, Community and Economic Development says the ACMP, “a voluntary program funded and authorized in part by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), had broad authority to address a variety of resource management issues” when Alaska implemented the program in 1979, but “has languished in the past several years without the needed updates to its purpose and policies.

“This resulted in the ACMP becoming fragmented in its implementation, subjective in its application, and an additional regulatory burden within an already comprehensive resource management system. As a result, projects have been unnecessarily delayed without a corresponding environmental benefit,” the commissioners said.

The commissioners said state agencies have worked hard to forge relationships with federal resource agencies operating in Alaska, and said the state actively participates in federal decision-making processes independent of ACMP requirements. “Thus, we are confident that Alaska will continue to be involved and our voice heard in federal activity and authorization processes, even without the formality of the voluntary ACMP consistency tools.”

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