Lawmakers polled on session to address coastal management

From Sean Cockerham in Anchorage --

House Speaker Mike Chenault's office said it hopes to know by the end of the day if there's enough support among House members for a special session on coastal zone management.

Both the House and Senate have been polling their members to gauge interest. Senate President Gary Stevens is having knee surgery today, and some senators are traveling, so the Senate doesn't expect to have the results of its poll until tomorrow.

But if the House agrees to a special session the Senate is likely to go along, as there's more interest among senators in the issue.

The Legislature needs two-thirds support of its members to call itself into a special session. Legislators said they might go into special session as early as next week if there's enough support.

The state's coastal zone management program expires next month if nothing is done.

Supporters of the program say it's needed to influence federal development decisions and to give local communities more of a say on development issues. The state would also lose $2.5 million in federal grant funds if the program is allowed to expire.

The Legislature failed to come up with a compromise on the issue in its previous special session that ended earlier this month.

The House voted down a proposed deal in part because of concerns about how much emphasis "local knowledge" was being given in an advisory board that would review coastal management issues.

The House and Gov. Sean Parnell also wanted the governor to be able to remove a board member at any time, rather than having to show cause.

The role of the board has been a hugely contentious issue in the Legislature, with Arctic coastal communities wanting a greater voice on offshore oil development in their areas and the oil and gas and mining industries wary of it being a hurdle for projects.