SUMMARY OF: A Special Report on the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Alaska Coastal Management Program (ACMP), Part 2, December 29, 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 second of two parts of a special report on DNR, ACMP. In this report, we address the ACMP issues identified above in numbers six through eight. The remaining issues are addressed in Department of Natural Resources, Alaska Coastal Management Program, Part 1, November 26, 2010 (10-30060A-11).

Report Conclusions

  • The ACMP is operated openly and transparently in many ways, but is lacking in certain aspects. For instance: the Division of Coastal and Ocean Management (DCOM) does not generally record minutes for working group meetings; DCOM does not distribute review participant materials to coastal resource district consultants; DCOM management did not respond in writing to ACMP reevaluation comments provided by coastal resource districts, other state agencies, industry, and the public; and DCOM has not kept participants actively informed about the status of the ACMP reevaluation process.
  • DCOM’s policy regarding consultants disregards coastal district autonomy. DCOM’s unwritten policy is that consultants cannot be on consistency review participant lists. Management’s intent is to improve coastal district representation in the ACMP. However, such an unwritten policy denies coastal districts autonomy over what is ultimately a coastal district management decision.
  • DNR is an appropriate agency to administer the ACMP. DNR’s mission and purpose are consistent with the ACMP’s objectives. Other agencies that would be appropriate to administer the ACMP include: DEC, the Department of Fish and Game, and the Office of the Governor.
  • Changes made to the ACMP following the passage of Ch. 24, SLA 03 have centralized in the DNR commissioner’s office decision-making that was formerly the Coastal Policy Council and the resource agency directors or commissioners’ responsibility. The changes have also lessened the consensus-building aspect of the ACMP consistency review. First, the number of coastal resource district enforceable policies was reduced thereby contributing to fewer coastal resource district comments. Second, the movement of the program from the Office of the Governor to a resource agency may have strained relationships among program participants. Third, DEC is not the strong participant that it was before the DEC carveout.
  • The legislature should reauthorize the ACMP program. The ACMP serves the public interest through coordinated consistency reviews by the State and coastal resource districts evaluating certain activities occurring in or having an effect on the State’s coastal zone.

Findings and Recommendations

  • DCOM should allow coastal resource districts to designate their own representation. DCOM will not distribute review participant materials to a consultant or allow a consultant to be designated by coastal resource districts as a point of contact for consistency reviews. While the intent of the unwritten policy is to encourage coastal resource district representation in the ACMP, it does not recognize coastal resource districts’ autonomy in determining how that representation is best achieved. DCOM should facilitate coastal resource district participation in the ACMP by allowing coastal resource districts to designate consultants as their point of contact if they decide it is in their best interest to do so.
  • DNR should complete the ABC List revision and ACMP reevaluation it began years ago. Completion of the ABC List revision is three years past the deadline set out in Ch. 31, SLA 05. Additionally, while the ACMP reevaluation does not have a similar statutory deadline, DNR had planned to have a proposal ready for the 26th Legislature’s consideration. With both the ABC List revision and the ACMP reevaluation, lack of consensus was the reason given for not pursuing change. DNR should commit to completing both processes timely.