Testify to OPPOSE Funding 404 Primacy
APRIL 20th and 21st!!!
The Alaska State Senate is considering the operating budget and whether to include Dunleavy’s request for $5 million per year to take over the Clean Water Act wetland permitting process from the US Army Corps of Engineers. This action would use up much-needed state funds and erode vital protections for our wetlands, wild salmon and wild salmon rivers.
404 Primacy Overview
The 404 permitting program regulates the dredge and fill of wetlands and waterways for construction projects including large mining projects. Under the Clean Water Act, a state can apply to take over the program if it can demonstrate that the program is equivalent to the federal program. DEC attempted to assume the program under the Parnell Administration but the legislature denied funding because it would be too costly. Unlike other federal programs that states assume, the 404 program does not come with any federal financial support. Due to the high cost of the program, only three states have assumed the permitting responsibility: Michigan, New Jersey and most recently, Florida.
The 404 program is very expensive and requires stable funding to avoid problems
- In 2022, DEC requested funding for 28 staff. Currently, the Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that runs the program in Alaska, requires 49 staff with an annual budget of $7.9 million. DEC has likely underestimated the cost of the program.
- DEC has not factored in litigation costs or costs for other agency staff necessary to implement the complicated technical review of the permit.
- Michigan Problems: Following 20 citations for noncompliance with the federal standards, the former governor of Michigan proposed returning the program to the federal government due to state budgetary constraints.1
- Florida Problems: Florida assumed the program recently and has already requested funding for an additional 17 positions because they underestimated what it would take to run the program.
Future funding cuts to the program will hurt businesses and fisheries
- DEC has cut funding for important programs like oil spill response and the ocean rangers’ program over the last several years. Future funding cuts to the 404 program will inevitably result in the slower issuance of permits and/or the issuance of permits that are not protective of our fisheries.
Tribes lose government to government consultation and other protections
- DEC has a consultation guidance document but it is not equivalent to the federal consultation process or required by law. In fact, DEC has a history of denying requests for consultation.
- Alaska’s assumption of the program would eliminate protections for cultural and historic resources under the National Historic Preservation Act.
- It is unclear how the state would work with BLM to protect subsistence resources as required by ANILCA section 810.
Alaska’s fisheries will lose
- DEC has already stated that it wants to streamline the permitting process and scale down enforcement of permits and mitigation requirements. This could have long lasting impacts on fish habitat and salmon fisheries.
If you plan to call into the hearing: Contact the Legislative Information Office (LIO)
- From Juneau: 907-586-9085
- Anchorage: 907-563-9085
- All other callers toll free: 844-586-9085 (this number does not work for JNU or ANC)
They will assist you with how and when to connect to the teleconference for the hearing. Before you call, know the budget item and committee name ready. Write down what you want to say, or highlight the talking points you want to speak on. Make sure to include who you are and where you live.
Bill #: 404c Clean Water Act Permitting
Committee: Senate Resources
- Thursday April 20 at 9 am -- Juneau, Southeast, Prince William Sound and Kodiak ---- Sign up to testify by 10:15 am
- Thursday April 20 at 1:30 pm -- Fairbanks, Interior, Copper River Valley --- Sign up to testify by 2:45 pm
- Friday April 21 at 9 am -- Nome, Bethel, Kotzebue, Utqiagvik, UnAlaska, Dillingham and Offnets --- Sign up to testify by 10:15 am
- Friday April 21 at 1 pm -- Anchorage, Mat Su, Kenai
If you plan to submit written testimony :
Use the talking points below to draft an email. Short and sweet emails are impactful. Make sure to include who you are and where you live. Telling a personal story is impactful. Send your testimony to the whole committee and CC Co-chairs.
Send Written Testimony to:
Whole Committee: [email protected]
Here is an example of a unique comment on this budget item:
Dear Senate Resources Committee,
My name is XXXX and I live in Palmer, AK. As you work to finalize the operating budget this year, please vote to reject any funding associated with the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) quest to take over the Clean Water Act 404 permitting program from the federal government. The State has attempted to take over the program before but the Legislature wisely refused to fund the program due to the high yearly fiscal cost. Only three states have assumed the program and each state vastly underestimated the financial commitment.
At this point, DEC has requested an appropriation of $5 million per year to staff up to 32 employees yet state agencies are struggling to fill existing vacancies and retain employees. If the program is not properly staffed and appropriately run it could have devastating effects on our wetlands, salmon rivers and fisheries. DEC has already cut important programs like oil spill response and the ocean rangers program due to lack of funding. Future funding cuts to this important permitting program will inevitably result in the slower issuance of permits and/or the issuance of permits that are not protective of our fisheries. We simply can’t afford this program, and in our current dire fiscal state, it would be outrageously irresponsible to do so. I urge you to reject any budget amendment that would fund the assumption of the Clean Water Act 404 permitting program.
XXX, Palmer, AK
Now it’s your turn! Use the talking points to draft your own unique comment!