SUMMARY OF: A Special Report on the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Alaska Coastal Management Program (ACMP), Part 1, November 26, 2010

Purpose of the Report

In accordance with Title 24 of the Alaska Statutes and a special request by the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee, we conducted a performance audit to determine: (1) whether regulatory changes in 11 AAC 112 and 114 limit the establishment of district enforceable policies and whether this limitation is consistent with legislative intent and state law; (2) whether DNR is properly implementing the local concern requirement; (3) whether the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) carveout is being implemented in accordance with legislative intent and how it has affected the scope of the ACMP’s consistency reviews; (4) whether changes to the statewide standards limit the ACMP’s ability to meet the its objectives; (5) whether changes to the ACMP have diminished the State’s rights under the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 (CZMA); (6) whether DNR is operating the program openly and transparently, whether DNR will allow consultants to be consistency review participants, and whether DNR is an appropriate agency to administer the program; (7) whether the ACMP’s changes have affected participation, decision making, and consensus building; and (8) whether the ACMP is operating in the public’s interest and should be reauthorized.

The assessment of the ACMP’s operations and performance was based on criteria set out in AS 44.66.050(c). Criteria set out in this statute relates to the determination of a demonstrated public need.

This report is the first of two parts of the Special Report on the Department of Natural Resources, Alaska Coastal Management Program. In this report, we address the ACMP issues identified above in numbers one through five. The remaining issues will be addressed at a later date in the second report.

Report Conclusions

  • Changes to AS 46.40 and the ACMP regulations in 11 AAC 112 and 114 have limited the ability of coastal resource districts to establish enforceable policies. Currently, there are 25 coastal districts with approved plans. Prior to the ACMP’s changes, their plans had over 1,300 enforceable policies. During district plan revision, the coastal resource districts submitted approximately 490 enforceable policies for approval; of these, approximately 210 enforceable policies were approved. The reduction in number is partially due to local concern and designated area requirements as well as the requirement that district enforceable policies relate to statewide standards. Although limiting, these requirements are consistent with statutes and legislative intent.
  • As intended by the legislature, the DEC carveout has excluded air, land, and water quality issues under DEC’s authority from ACMP reviews. It also eliminated district enforceable policies that addressed air, land, and water quality issues under the authority of DEC to avoid regulatory confusion and minimize delays in the ACMP process. The DEC carveout has been positive for industry, but from the coastal resource districts’ perspective, there are disadvantages.
  • Changes to the statewide standards may limit the ACMP’s ability to meet its objectives. A review of the standards indicates that many of the modifications clarified the standards and others eliminated duplicate authorities. However, some federal and state agencies as well as coastal resource districts are concerned that the less robust habitats standard has lessened the ACMP’s ability to achieve some of its objectives.
  • ACMP changes have not diminished the State’s rights under the CZMA. The State still has and does take advantage of its rights to weigh in on federal decisions through the consistency review process. While the State has retained its rights, regulatory changes may have affected the purview of the consistency review.