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Anadromous Task Force to start mulling recommendations

Posted: November 28, 2012 - 10:53pm  |  Updated: November 29, 2012 - 9:34am

After four months of digesting research and presentations, the Anadromous Fish Habitat Protection Task Force will start the process of forming and shaping recommendations generated by its various members.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre has charged the group with recommending changes to the anadromous streams habitat protection expansion ordinance — which was previously passed but not fully implemented — to be further considered by the public, and eventually the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly.

Issues the task force will hear at its 6 p.m. Monday meeting at the Donald E. Gilman River Center include renaming the code to reflect all water types under its jurisdiction, focusing on how streams are added to or subtracted from the state document borough code follows, the amount of influence the borough has on such additions or subtractions and what uses could be allowed near lakes with a conditional use permit.

“These are the first group of amendments that are coming forward and I anticipate there will be a number of other amendments from other task force members that will come forward,” said Paul Ostrander, borough chief of staff and facilitator of the task force.

Ostrander said the group will consider recommendations by fitting them into one of four categories — catalogue, notice, housekeeping and regulatory.

“We’ll look at those amendments and as a Task Force we will see if there is redundancy in them and if there are things we like in one amendment we would like to incorporate into another,” he said.

Once considered, recommendations approved through a vote of the Task Force will then go back for a review by the borough’s legal department and River Center staff for additional comments. Recommendations will then come back to the Task Force for a final action.

“This will be a final recommendation that we will go out to the town halls with and is subject to change based on what public testimony we get, again,” Ostrander said. “It is a very lengthy, deliberative process, but, like we have been trying to do throughout this entire process ... we want to be intentionally deliberate and make sure the decisions we make are good ones.”

Ostrander said a preliminary timeline has the task force generating final recommendations by the end of its February meeting. The aforementioned three town hall meetings will likely be in Sterling, Nikiski and Kasilof, Ostrander said, but the Task Force might also consider a meeting near Moose Pass or Cooper Landing.

Ray Tauriainen, assembly member and task force member, has submitted a recommendation that water bodies due for inclusion in the habitat protection district would be recommended by the River Center, considered by the planning commission and forwarded to the borough assembly to allow more public vetting, he said.

The recommendation would be retroactive, so instead of using all Peninsula water bodies included in the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Atlas and Catalogue of Waters Important for Spawning, Rearing or Migration of Anadromous Fish, the River Center and Planning Commission would make river-specific recommendations before fully implementing Ordinance 2011-12.

“Pretty much like it was done prior to this (ordinance) — they named specific waterbodies that were being added,” Tauriainen said.

Task Force members Ken Tarbox and Bill Smith, who is also an assembly member, proposed similar recommendations — that the planning commission be involved when a stream is up for addition or deletion from borough habitat protection.

Smith hopes the periodic changes in the Fish and Game document will be reviewed by River Center staff, presented to the Planning Commission and then proposed as amendments to the code for the assembly to consider every five years. Tarbox’s proposal is for that process to occur every three years with direct property-owner notification included before hand.

“I’m not proposing that the planning commission or the assembly gets to pick which anadromous streams are in, I guess they could by law, but that’s not my intention of having that in there,” Tarbox said.

Instead the idea is to give property owners more of a heads-up for public commenting and planning purposes, he said.

“The public was pretty clear on this — the state process puts a stream in or out of the catalogue and they didn’t feel there was enough opportunity for notification that they were going to be impacted in that process,” he said.

Tarbox will also propose adding a section for property owners to obtain conditional use permits on “unspecified water-dependant, lakeshore-related” activities or structures such as those relating to float planes, private boat launches and swimming or wading access.

“What I wanted to get across there is like what we did for streams where we said you can have a fish-cleaning station, a fence and these (other certain) activities along streams in the habitat protection district,” he said. “There may be a similar list that needs to be generated for lakes and that’s why it says unspecified right now — I plan on taking that word out.”

Smith is also recommending replacing the word “streams” in the title of KPB Code Chapter 21.18 with “waters” to read “Anadromous Waters Habitat Protection.” Tarbox proposed using the phrase “water bodies.”

Ordinance addresses public notice

At the borough assembly’s Tuesday meeting, Tauriainen will introduce an ordinance requiring direct mail notification to affected property owners when a zoning district is proposed to be created, amended, expanded or abolished.

The assemblyman said that ordinance was direct result of resident concerns that the borough’s prior notification of Ordinance 2011-12 was inadequate.

“They were directly mailed after the fact, but not before,” Tauriainen said. “By borough code there was no requirement to directly notify property owners on land use regulations. So this will change that so they will be.”

When an amendment would only expand the existing zoning district, Tauriainen’s ordinance would only require borough notification to the property owners in the expanded area.

Ostrander said a borough fiscal note has not been generated for that ordinance, but estimated the cost associated with direct mail notification of such issues would not be great.

“That was my first reaction was this is going to cost the borough a lot of money,” he said. “The reality I think is that it is going to be much less than what people originally would anticipate simply because there are not that many zoning districts within the borough and amendments and changes to those zoning districts are relatively rare.”

If that measure — Ordinance 2012-39 — is introduced by the assembly, it will be up for a public hearing on Jan. 8.

The borough assembly meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the George A. Navarre Borough Administration Building at 144 N. Binkley Street in Soldotna. The task force’s Monday meeting will be at the River Center, located at 514 Funny River Road.

 

Brian Smith can be reached at brian.smith@peninsulaclarion.com.

Task Force members Stacy Oliva and Fred Braun submitted a resolution with the borough clerk’s office Wednesday to redefine borough Chief of Staff Paul Ostrander’s role as facilitator of the group.

The resolution is set to be taken up by the group at its Monday meeting.

If approved by the Task Force it would prohibit Ostrander from participating in “any discussion except when necessary to facilitate the meeting” and strip him of his power to vote on recommendations the task force considers.

The resolution further requires that in order to make the position “unbiased,” he “shall not advocate his or the administration’s position at any time during the meeting, including the closing comment period or in his comments made to the media.”

“This resolution is necessary to ensure that Task Force proceedings are fair and unbiased,” said Oliva in a press release. “The public deserves no less.”

The two members wrote that the resolution would also keep the Task Force’s recommendations “truly independent and not influenced by the borough administration.”

Braun in the release said Ostrander’s dual roles as borough chief of staff and facilitator of the Task Force creates a conflict of interest.

“The task force meetings need to be open, transparent and unbiased,” Braun wrote in the release. “This resolution is intended to keep the recommendations of the task force based on facts, and not biased by special interests.”

Ostrander said he didn’t like the resolution because of “what it implies,” and that it would not improve the habitat protection code, which is the primary function of the task force. But, he said he would let the task force as a whole decide its fate.

“I take my role as a facilitator very seriously,” he said. “I have spent an enormous amount of time on this, I think it is a very important process and I think that the task force can improve this ordinance dramatically.”

— Brian Smith

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