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Task force begins to discuss streams ordinance

Group on task

Posted: August 21, 2012 - 8:34am

A group tasked with mulling recent protections added to local anadromous lakes and streams has formed, hosted its first meeting and is settling into what could be a several month process of answering the question before it.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre has asked the Anadromous Fish Habitat Protection Task Force to consider if the anadromous fish habitat protection code enacted last summer is appropriate for some or all of the lakes included in the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s “Atlas and Catalogue of Waters Important for Spawning, Rearing, or Migration of Anadromous Fish.” 

Borough Chief of Staff Paul Ostrander, who serves as facilitator of the task force, said the group plans to take on other issues in the future, but right now wants to stick with the lakes issue and take others one issue at a time.

“I think if we tried to tackle every issue that was identified at once it would limit our effectiveness and I think the timeline would be stretched out significantly,” he said.

However, Stacy Oliva, a founding member of the Citizens 4 Responsible Waterfront Land Use group that opposes the anadromous protection ordinance, is concerned the task force is “narrow in scope” given the size of the impact she contends the ordinance will have.

“As far as expectations go, I am just going to wait and see,” she said.

Currently, the Kenai River, 10 of its tributaries and 14 other streams in the area, are managed under habitat protection. The anadromous streams ordinance passed in late June 2011 added 2,317 stream miles to the 602 stream miles previously included in the district.

The ordinance protects the near-stream habitat of all anadromous streams — which host fish migrating from the sea to spawn in fresh water — in the borough 50 feet up the bank from the ordinary high water mark. 

The idea is by protecting the habitat, the safety and future of the fish — primarily salmon — are better secured, advocates of the measure contend. Opponents contend the measure is onerous, isn’t within the borough’s powers and infringes on private property rights.

Borough code on the issue includes a prior use rule, creates tax incentives for improvement and compliance and creates a permitting system for property owners to receive approval for projects on their property in the protection district. Implementation for the east side of the borough is scheduled for January 2013, but notice of the ordinance’s rules and regulations has already been mailed out to some areas.

In June, the borough denied the C4RWLU group’s petition aiming to scratch the measure from the books. 

The task force will likely meet again in early- to mid-September, but is not operating under a deadline because administration didn’t want to put limitations on it, Ostrander said.

Oliva feels Navarre is concerned about the ordinance and is working to address an issue he inherited. But she said she is concerned the task force isn’t being treated in a similar manner as other former task forces.

Specifically she wants the group to be formed under a resolution approved by the assembly to give it guidelines and deadlines. That would add to its “credibility,” she said.

“It is a little open-ended, I guess you would say” she said. “I’m concerned it is a means to dissipate some of the energy in the community for bringing up the concerns ... because it’s a borough-wide impact. It’s not a small impact on private property ownership.”

Ostrander said he was optimistic the task force will be effective, but said it would take a while for the process to work.

“I think a lot of times folks look at a task force and think, ‘You know it is just going to be a bunch of people meeting and they are going to meet for a year and nothing is going to happen,’” he said. “Or even worse, they might feel like a task force is formed to simply support the administration’s position on something and that is not the case here at all.”

Ostrander said he wanted the group to make and forward “tangible recommendations” to Navarre and then possibly the assembly. 

“This was an ordinance that was passed prior to this administration being here and we’re at the point now where we are just trying to figure out the most appropriate and responsible way to implement this ordinance,” he said. “If that means making some changes, then we think that is OK.”

The group’s Aug. 9 meeting, Ostrander said, served as mostly an introduction among the assembly members, planning commissioners, residents, biologists and other officials who comprise it.

Members discussed the ordinance’s constitutionality, its history, and why it was put into place, Ostrander said. The group will host experts in a variety of fields to discuss things like the process by which a body of water is included in Fish and Game’s catalogue, what economic impact the ordinance would have on property values, and also about how it applies to lakes.

If the group determines the ordinance is appropriate for lakes, then no changes will be made and the next topic will be formed, Ostrander said.

“However, if the task force determines, ‘You know what, there are some lakes that this probably makes some sense with and there are some lakes that it maybe doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, we think the code should be modified in this way to compensate for those changes,’ then that’s appropriate,” he said.

Despite the group not operating under a deadline, Ostrander developed a rough outline estimating the group would generate a decision on the lakes issue in the spring. But, the group can always take more or less time, he said.

“We have asked a specific question of the task force, but we don’t want to limit the scope of what the task force wants to accomplish,” he said.

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wilsonro 08/22/12 - 10:19 am
Democracy broken

I am fifth generation of Kenai, I have seen many changes to the Kenai Peninsula in my 41 years of life, and the bad out way the good. I was raised to believe if you work hard for something you can do anything. I have worked hard to own the little bit of this Kenai Peninsula that I own, I thought! Do we really ever own anything? If we monetarily own something, it definitely doesn't mean we can't get it taken away or told how to use is, " Is that really considered freedom". I bought property on Daniels lake in 1998 and now after paying taxes to KPB for what little services I have received since then, they are going to tell me that I can't use 10000 sq./ft. of one of my lake front lots, that’s a 1/4 of one acre that is useless, are they going to take that of my tax bill? what a joke! KPB has become just like all other United States Government, too Big, Inefficient, greedy, wasteful, and dictators. I wish we were still a Territory! We would have more rights and less taxes. No wonder the old timers didn't like the idea of the KPB. This pretty much is the icing on the cake for me, after sitting on the beach and watching all the sockeye go by, made my permit just a worthless piece of plastic. I was told we need to watch how we handle this, we have to let democracy work! What a joke, it sure did, we Eastside Setnetters sat and watched The Last Harvest go right by us! I haven't felt this hopeless ever in my lifetime, to have absolutely no control of people making decisions that affect thousands of people and only have their interest at heart not the peoples.

sioux224 08/22/12 - 08:25 pm
Why more regulations? Taking my rights away one piece at a time

This feels like a wide spread attack on all property owners along the streams and lakes. We property owners are having our land taken away and our access limited. This is property that was bought and paid for by sweat and hard work. We have paid our taxes. We have done our part in conserving the environment. We have protected the banks of the lakes and river. But you have let public come in and harm the river banks just to catch fish. Why do we need more regulations? Why not enforce the regulations that are already in place. You can’t. You don’t have a large enough staff to police the regulation that we already have. Why did you increase the 602 stream miles to almost four times to 2,317 stream miles. Does this help protect the salmon more? Why is 50 foot limit the correct distance? Is the 50 foot the necessary distance that is needed to protect the salmon? It seems like this figure was pulled out of the air. Is it based on scientific data and fact? Would 5 foot be better or maybe 2 foot? Is 100 percent of the frontage protection needed or would 10% coverage be adequate. I feel that this ordnance is way to general and is infringing on my rights and stealing land that I bought and paid for. If the current regulations were enforced, there would not be a need to enact more regulation. This is just a way for government to control more access to the land and collect more taxes.
All lake and stream property owners should be notified well in advance of all meetings and activity that could impact their property. Property owners need to have their rights respected and left alone.

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