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Alaska Coastal Zone Management Initiative Gets Hearing

February 06, 2012|By Jason Lamb | Channel 2 News

JUNEAU, Alaska — A ballot initiative aimed at giving Alaskans a voice when it comes to coastal zone management was heard by a joint state judiciary committee on Monday.

Alaska's last coastal zone management program expired last year. 

Supporters of a ballot initiative reinstating the program say when it comes to federal projects that would affect Alaska's coastline, coastal zone management gives the state a say about those projects.

“It's a tremendous power, and it's important for Alaskans given the fact that we have a coastline that's roughly 38 to 40 percent of the entire nation’s,” said Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho, a sponsor of the initiative.

The state is continuing to count initiative signatures that the Alaska Sea Party submitted last month. While a computer couldn't initially qualify enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot, the state Division of Elections says subsequent hand counts for initiatives often qualify enough signatures to do so.

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“Based on historical petitions from the past, there are a high number of those who are not qualified on the first go-around who get later qualified through manual qualification,” said Gail Fenumiai, the head of the Division of Elections.

The ballot measure could disappear altogether if the legislature passes a coastal management law that is “substantially similar” to the initiative.

But just what does "substantially similar" mean, legally?

A state attorney says Alaska courts typically cut legislatures a lot of slack when forming their own bills in cases like this, because the issue is just so complicated.

“I think it is fairly broad, and so I guess the Supreme Court knows how broad it will be when they see it, so there's a certain amount of latitude there,” said Doug Gardner, a legislative legal attorney.

It still remains to be seen if the Legislature will attempt crafting coastal zone legislation on its own, or if voters will get a chance to vote on the issue.

Today’s hearing was the first of its kind: a new requirement from a 2010 law aimed at getting out information about statewide ballot initiatives.

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