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Coastal zone program staffers begin looking for new jobs

JUNEAU -- Staffers of the state's coastal management program are looking for jobs after prospects of their program surviving grow dimmer in the Legislature.

Two-thirds of the 33 positions are located in Juneau, with only four people finding new jobs so far, the Juneau Empire reported Saturday.

"Juneau is a tough market for us," said Randy Bates, director of the Division of Coastal and Ocean Management. One of the people finding a new job is Bates, who is leaving the program to become the new director of the Department of Fish and Game's Habitat Division on July 1.

The coastal management program is scheduled to end June 30, unless it's extended by the Legislature. But that would require a special session.

Program supporters say the program is needed to influence federal development decisions and provide local input. They say losing it could have consequences like preventing federal approval of a potential Arctic deep-water drilling port, and that state would also lose federal grant funds.

Bates said he's proceeding as if the program will end.

"I know the rumors are out there," he said. "My focus is still on helping staff relocate as well as they can."

Juneau Democratic Rep. Beth Kerttula said she's still working for a way to keep the program going and trying to keep in contact with coastal legislators who are part of the House Majority coalition.

"There are a few of us who are continuing to put our head against the wall, trying to get something to happen," she said.

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