Kasilof Special Use Area to be appealed



Adam Smith, a natural resource manager for the Department of Natural Resources said that if a fee is ever implemented, it would be to cover expenses associated with providing support services during the personal use fisheries, not to use the fishery.

According to Smith, enforcement authority is contingent upon support from the Legislature.
Regulations have not been adopted for the area as of yet and will be a separate process, Raymond Keough, also a natural resource manager for DNR said.

When the state Department of Natural Resources announced its decision May 26 to designate the area around the mouth of the Kasilof River as a Special Use Area, not everyone was thrilled.

Debbie Brown, president of the Cohoe Kasilof Community Council, said she is planning to file an appeal in hopes of keeping the existing regulations instead of conforming to new ones that DNR may implement.

"We seek to disagree with DNR without being disagreeable," Brown said.

Brown and the council have 20 days from the date of DNR's decision, and Brown said they want to wait until the deadline gets closer to make sure they have a solid appeal developed.

Adam Smith, a natural resource manager at DNR, said the decision to designate the special use area was based on prevalent problems of the area.

"Basically what we did was look at some of the problems that are well known and developed basic requirements or special protections to address those management issues," Smith said. "For example, the motorized use on the dunes has been an outstanding problem."

Smith cited the fence that was installed last month as a big indicator that something had to be done.

The decision provides the scoping process for possible regulations to be adopted in the future, according to Raymond Keough, also a natural resource manager with DNR.

"These are not regulations for the area," Keough said. "Any regulations in the area need to be adopted through the Alaska Administrative Procedures Act, so that will be a separate process."

To be able to adopt regulations, there will be another public process.

"People will be able to give input on those regulations," Smith said.

For now, Smith said, DNR staff members will be dropping into the area and talking to the users on a limited basis to glean input from the users and monitor the dune fencing project.

Brown fears there will be fees to use the land. However, Keough said if there was ever a fee, it would be to cover expenses associated with providing support services during the personal use fisheries.

DNR plans to have its own enforcement authority in the area contingent upon on support from the Alaska legislature, according to Smith.

Brown said there is no need for DNR to create a special use area with more restrictive rules and regulations, fees and fines. Brown believes if the Alaska State Troopers and Alaska Fish and Wildlife patrol the area during personal-use fishing days, they can enforce the existing regulations.

"Many property owners and year-round residents do not take kindly to having outside influences change the character of their community without consent," Brown said.

Keough said he has received a few comments so far and believes people will see this (decision) as a positive for the area.

"I think people are pretty excited that we've actually done something for habitat protection but allowing people to still enjoy the fishery," Keough said. "So I think we've struck a pretty good balance."