The work of the Anadromous Fish Habitat Task Force appointed by Borough Mayor Mike Navarre has been hard at work gathering information relating to the controversial Kenai Peninsula Borough’s anadromous fish habitat protection code ordinance 2011-12 introduced by the previous administration and passed by the Borough Assembly. Mayor Navarre appointed his chief of staff Paul Ostrander to head up the Task Force charged to answer the question: “Are the provisions of the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s anadromous fish habitat protection code appropriate for some or all of the lakes that are included in the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Atlas and Catalogue of Waters Important for Spawning, Rearing, or Migration of Anadromous Fish?”
At the January 8th Borough Assembly meeting Ostrander reported the findings and progress the task force has made to the Assembly and a capacity crowd gathered at the Borough Building. In an interview Ostrander said, “The task force has put in an enormous amount of work over the last five months and have spent ten to twelve hour listening to different experts that we have brought in to talk with the task force about everything from how property values might be affected potentially to how the very smallest streams, the first order streams within the Peninsula, what the role of those streams is in the life cycle of the salmon. So the task force has become very well educated now on the issue and I think that education is critical because it’s what is going to allow them to put together really solid recommendations to the administration and the assembly. We are on the verge right now and in the next couple of months you will see those amendments take close to a final form before we take the recommendations out to the public for more testimony. We welcome the public participation because through that testimony we get a good idea of what the concerns are particularly by those property owners who are affected by the ordinance and the expansion of the habitat district,” he said.
While the opponents of the ordinance have been the most vocal there were those at the meeting who expressed that as river front property owner who was already included in the ordinance they have had very positive experiences in permitting development on their property through the Kenai River Center one stop permitting process. “What was once a nightmare is now a simple and very helpful process at the River Center. As a property owner I feel I have a responsibility to use the best science available when developing my water front property. I came here from Kentucky, I didn’t know cannery reed grass was harmful here and I was glad to have the information easily available to me about how to properly protect my river bank.”
Through the process Ostrander says there have been surprises, “We all came to this with different levels of knowledge and through the process have learned a lot, for me personally there are many things I have learned that I was not aware of before so I think all of the task force members have uncovered things we didn’t anticipate and through that we have all learned and look forward to sharing that as we continue and complete our work through the public process.” All of the minutes from the task force meetings as well as the complete presentation made to the Assembly and the schedule of coming meetings is posted on the Borough’s website at www.borough.kenai.ak.us.