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Knowles supports initiative for coastal zone management plan

Becky BohrerAssociated Press

JUNEAU -- Former Gov. Tony Knowles is supporting a ballot initiative that would re-establish a coastal management program in Alaska.

Knowles, a Democrat, is among the headliners of a fundraiser for Ballot Measure 2, planned for Tuesday. Others listed on the fundraiser announcement include former state lawmakers Arliss Sturgulewski, Vic Fischer and Suzanne Little.

Knowles also participated in a news conference in Anchorage on Monday, called by initiative supporters, on the significance of Ballot Measure 2, particularly in the face of plans to develop the Alaska Arctic. North Slope Borough Mayor Charlotte Brower, Sen. Donny Olson, D-Nome, and Terzah Tippin Poe, co-chair of the Alaska Sea Party, the group behind the initiative, also spoke.

Alaska had a coastal management program for decades, including during Knowles' tenure, which allowed the state a voice in federal resource management decisions affecting Alaska's coastline. Knowles said the program was a help, not a hindrance, to development, as opponents claim the new program could be.

The initiative calls for a 13-member coastal policy board, with nine public members and four state commissioners. The idea is to give local communities a say in development decisions that could affect their way of life. Initiative supporters say the board would not have veto authority but could make recommendations on how to make projects better. Opponents say they have concerns with the makeup of the board and fear it will have too much control.

Alaska's program ended last year after lawmakers and the governor failed to come to terms on how to revamp and extend it.

Knowles said he's written opinion pieces discussing his experience with the program and some of the benefits he thinks Alaska has reaped from involving local communities in resource development decisions.

He also said he will write a "very small check" at Tuesday's fund-raiser, joking that he didn't think it would bridge the disparity in funding between the two sides. Opposition group "Vote No on 2" raised more than 12 times the money raised by the Alaska Sea Party, the group behind the initiative, during the last reporting period.

Knowles said he wants to see that stories -- like those of Brower and others -- get out, so Alaskans better understand the effect the program can have. "I'll do everything I can to help that out," he said.

Brower spoke of concerns that development could have on subsistence activities -- or "food security," as she called it for those who "live off the land, off the ocean" -- and the desire to have a say in decisions that could affect that lifestyle.

"We're not there to scare away development because it is happening," she said. "We want to be part of that responsible resource development."

Associated Press