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With no deal in works, coastal zone program appears dead

JUNEAU -- Alaska's coastal management program appears to be "effectively dead," a leading state lawmaker said Tuesday, with neither the House nor the Senate showing a willingness to budge on their positions.

Sen. Gary Stevens told The Associated Press the lines of communication between him and Speaker Mike Chenault haven't closed. But with lawmakers making travel, fishing or other plans, Stevens said he doesn't see the Legislature calling itself back into session within the next month. Stevens himself will be out of state for about 20 days. Unless Gov. Sean Parnell intervenes -- and he's given no indication that he will -- the current program will expire by July 1.

Plans had been tentatively made for a second special session to deal solely with the program this week, but legislative leaders wanted a deal in place first. Efforts to secure a compromise fell through over the weekend.

"I'm very disappointed," said Stevens, R-Kodiak. "It seems to me like it was within our grasp to save the program. ... But I just, on a personal basis, I don't see another avenue for moving ahead other than just giving up and saying, 'Anything is better than nothing.' And I don't think folks are willing to say that."

The opt-in program lets states put conditions on certain activities on federal lands and waters, and coastal communities were seeking a greater say in that process. The issue, which has been simmering for years, went unresolved during the regular session, with the House passing a bill but the Senate failing to follow suit.

"Certainly, there are some people on our side who would like to get the Senate version passed, and some people have other ideas," said Chenault, R-Nikiski. "But to go to Juneau and try to spend 30 more days to hammer out coastal zone when we had 120 days to do it, I don't see that as being productive."

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