August 23, 2012 | Vol. 39, No. 34

Guest Editorial

Be True to Statehood Values; Be True to Fish and Vote Yes on 2

Like many residents of Petersburg, fish often determines how I vote. As a former Executive Director of United Fishermen of Alaska and Southeast Alaska Seiners, I write to strongly encourage your readers to Vote Fish and support the coastal management initiative on August 28. You may be surprised to learn that Alaska’s fisheries have benefitted from the Alaska Coastal Management Program for more than 30 years. The Alaska Coastal Management Program has helped protect fish habitat and ensure harbor and waterfront development for the fishing industry. Yet, all this would go away if the coastal management initiative does not pass this August 28, leaving Alaska the only coastal state without a program.

Under federal law, if a state has a program, the federal government must follow state guidelines in making decisions about projects. “That gives the state the upper hand,” says former Governor Knowles. “That's why states like Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas -- all of them have coastal management programs and they are very active in it.”

Recently, we also learned that without a coastal management program, Alaska would not have the ability to stop or influence the establishment of offshore (3 miles to 200 miles) fish farms should the Offshore Aquaculture Act be implemented. As noted by Representative Paul Seaton (R-Homer), “the best way to keep fish farms –which are banned in Alaska – from developing off our shores is to reinstate the coastal management program.”

The opposition is saying that this initiative is complicated and is anti-development. History does not bear this out. The initiative is based on the program we had before which spurred the responsible development of the entire North Slope. The Red Dog and Greens Creek mine were permitted under the Alaska Coastal Management Program. History also shows that the program coordinates permit review and lessens the prospect of lawsuits. What’s not to like about that? In essence, voting ‘yes on 2’ is the easiest way to walk the talk about responsible development and protection of our fishing industry.

As many Alaskans familiar with our statehood history know, there is a fundamental difference between Governor Hickel’s vision of Alaska as an ‘Owner State’ and that of ever being owned by outside interests. We didn’t like indigenous lands owned by the federal government so we pushed for Alaska Native Claims. We didn’t like all our offshore waters being heavily fished by uncontrolled foreign interests so Senator Stevens delivered the Magnuson-Stevens Act extending fishing rights to 200 miles. As Alaskans we have a history of disliking our lands and resources being under the control of outside interests, whether through government policy or market conditions. Yet, the powers to be (Alaska Oil and Gas Association, Resource Development Council, Alaska Tea Party etc.) are acting contrary to our historical interest as an owner state and instead are opening wide the doors of foreign influence. This is what the well financed campaign against the coastal management initiative portends.

Allow me to explain.

According to the most recent reports (July 30) required by the Alaska Public Offices Commission, Outside interests have so far contributed almost 70 percent of the opposition’s massive war chest of $767,000. This compares with the initiative supporters raising $64,000 from 99.7 percent Alaskans. Clearly this is a David v. Goliath set-up. But what is more unsettling is where the money comes from. More than $500,000 comes from companies headquartered outside Alaska or even outside the U.S. The bottom-line of this scenario is that foreign companies are trying to buy this election and scare Alaskans into voting against the coastal management initiative. They say it will create more bureaucracy. Not true, no additional agency or permit is created. They say it will create more red tape. Not true unless you consider the voice of local communities red tape. You may not hear this side on your local radio or TV because the Alaska Sea Party, made of individual Alaskans, does not have the funds to wage an all out media campaign. But there is plenty of information about the initiative easily accessible at www.alaskacoastalmanagement.org. It is worth seeing why over 40 mayors and legislators enthusiastically support the initiative.

Their main reasons are simple and resonate with our statehood values. The coastal management initiative is Pro-Alaska in that the federal Coastal Management Act is the only federal law requiring the federal government to be consistent with state approved coastal plans.

Pro-Community because coastal communities would have a say in how natural resources are responsibly developed.

Pro-Development by making permitting easier and resolving issues so development can proceed with fewer hurdles.

Let’s restore a program that worked just fine for developing and protecting Alaska’s coastal resources. Please vote yes on 2; please Vote for the Coast on August 28.

Kate Troll is a long-time Alaskan with more than 22 years of experience in fisheries, coastal policy and energy policy. She resides in Douglas, Alaska.

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