Frustrated Kenai residents opened Wednesday’s Kenai City Council meeting expressing concerns about their beach’s poor sanitation. All of the speakers cited dipnetters as the problem.
“Our community may have not asked for the responsibility of this dipnet fishery,” said Courtney Stroh, ROC the Kenai member, 16, in a speech, “but nonetheless, the burden is ours to bear.”
Leslie Cooper said the dipnet burden has worsened each year.
“I have no words to describe how foul dipnetting has become,” she said.
Others agreed. Margaret Gilman described a trip to the beach as “putrid,” and council member Mike Boyle said human feces is now among the litter accumulating in the sand.
Jim Butler, another concerned resident, said the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation encourages fish waste to be dumped back in the ocean, but he said such dumpings are illegal per state law.
This method is also ineffective, many said, because the tide only washes waste back.
Whatever the method of disposal, only the Alaska Department of Fish and Game can regulate fishing practices, Mayor Pat Porter said after the meeting. The city itself cannot ticket those dumping fish waste on beach, which Porter said is an issue.
“There’s only 95 Fish and Wildlife Troopers in the entire state,” she said. “Ninety-five, that’s it.”
As an added issue, she said the sate often ignores this problem.
The council will meet with the Department of the Interior on Aug. 24 to discuss this issue further.
Of the ordinances passed, one allocated a grant of $61,566 to the Kenai Watershed Forum to fund bacteria level monitoring on the beaches.
In past years studies have shown unacceptably high E. coli levels on the beaches.
“But if you stop and think about it,” Porter said, “we have a tremendous amount of seagulls here, and what makes them stay here is that fish that everybody is harvesting and just dumping everywhere.”
Porter said the problem was not entirely from the dipnetters.
The city council also heard from Rick Koch about the city’s new water filtration system now producing water as pure as bottled water, the city manager said.
While the city is still resolving bugs in the filtration system, it is now operational, and residents can expect clearer water.
“I look forward to being a community who can say, ‘I remember when my water was brown and filthy,’” said Boyle.
Other emotional debate sparked when seven people spoke against a resolution that proposed increasing rent by $50 per month at Vintage Pointe Manor, a senior housing facility.
“So the increase that you are proposing is entirely too high for me,” Vintage Pointe Manor resident Joan Kirkham said. “I will not be able to pay it, and I will be forced now to find other accommodations.”
Former Director of Vintage Pointe Manor Kelly Kelso also opposed the rent increase. She said she thought it was too high and Boyle said he has never supported these rent increases in the past and wanted to vote it down.
But some council members said immediate action would not be appropriate.
“This is a really difficult issue that we’ve been presented with,” Council Member Robert Molloy said, “and we don’t have much time to work on it.”
The council unanimously voted to postpone their decision to Sept. 5 providing the Vintage Pointe Manor community more time to prepare.
Dan Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.