Council outlines dipnet options, residents ask for change

A Cannery Road resident said she has put her home on the market, partially, because the mess left each year at the Kenai River personal-use dipnet fishery and the crowds that gather have become too much.

 

“It’s pretty much made our lives hell,” Kenai resident Carolyn Snowder said at the Kenai City Council work session Wednesday.

Cannery Road runs about a mile along the south beach, and during the month the fishery is open fish waste and trash — diapers, human waste, beer cans — make the area so toxic she cannot let her dog outside without having to give it a bath afterwards, she said.

“And we are not able to use the beach past June when the fishery opens because the waste is just so bad,” she said.

Of the more than 20 concerned Kenai residents, most who spoke said they wanted the city to require dipnet users remove their fish whole from the beach. Others said they wanted better enforcement. Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre said the Borough is considering installing traffic cameras along Cannery Road to crack down on speeding and other traffic violations during July.

Nikiski resident Richard McGahan said he was fed up.

“We have laws in this country in the state of Alaska and I think it’s time to enforce it,” McGahan said. “We need to stop pussy-footing around.”

The Wednesday work session was the second held to discuss alternatives to correct the city’s dipnet fishery problems.

At a Jan. 7 meeting, City Manager Rick Koch outlined the following six alternatives for action:

■ Alternative one, the city will take no action and will manage the fishery waste as it did in 2012;

■ Alternative two, the city will increase its efforts to move fish waste to the tide line during low tides and to collect solid waste in trash bins;

■ Alternative three, the city will allow “gut and gill” fish cleaning on the beaches and in the river, increase its efforts to move fish waste to the tide line during low tides and to collect solid waste in trash bins, and ramp up enforcement;

■ Alternative four, the city will require dipnet users to remove the whole fish from the beach, collect solid waste in trash bins and increase enforcement;

■ Alternative five, the city will place multiple containers on the north and south beaches and at the Kenai Municipal Boat Launch to collect fish waste, ban fish waste from the beach and the river, increase its efforts to collect solid waste in trash bins, and ramp up enforcement; and

■ Alternative six, the city will place multiple fish cleaning stations along the north and south beach and the boat launch equipped with fish waste containers, ban all fish waste from the beaches or water, increase its efforts to collect solid waste in trash bins, and ramp up enforcement.

Koch said he recommends alternative two as short-term action.

That alternative would cost the city about $99,000 for another tractor, a rake for the tractor, more signs and four-wheelers and an additional $73,350 in operating costs, according to a Jan. 7 work session handout prepared by Koch.

While many residents supported the fourth alternative — removal of the fish whole — Koch said he thinks that alternative will only encourage users to throw their fish waste in campsites and on the side of the roads between Kenai and Anchorage.

“I don’t think it’s very Alaskan of us to create a solution that will cause problems downstream,” he said.

He said that alternative would also be difficult to enforce. Kenai Police Chief Gus Sandahl said, for the most part, an officer has to see a dipnet user litter to write them a ticket. Currently there are not enough officers to enforce existing rules, Kenai Mayor Pat Porter said.

Council Member Mike Boyle said he supports alternative three, the “gut and gill” option.

He said it is the “least offensive,” easiest to enforce and it brings a change.

But Koch said alternative three would increase fisher fees by $10 if the city is to break even, and if it were a bad year, the city would lose money. Alternative two would only raise fees by $5, he said.

Koch said alternative two would serve as a short term fix, paving the way for alternative five.

Alternative five would create a system to collect and remove fish waste from the beach, he said.

The alternative would cost the city about $124,000 for four-wheelers, more signage and fish waste containers and about $360,150 in operating costs, according to Koch’s handout.

He said he hopes the city can implement the option in the next two to five years.

Currently the council is split between alternative two and three. Council Members Bob Molloy and Mike Boyle said they support three. Porter and council members Tim Navarre and Terry Bookey support two.

Council member Ryan Marquis said he is tied between two and four, and Brian Gabriel Sr. said he is tied between two and three.

The council has not yet set a date to vote on the alternatives.

After the work session, city council met briefly to pass several ordinances. Council members unanimously passed ordinance 2674-2013 to reflect the current process for city employees to opt-out of the State Public Employees Retirement System.

City council will meet again Feb. 20, 7 p.m., at city hall, 210 Fidalgo Ave.

Dan Schwartz can be reached at daniel.schwartz@peninsulaclarion.com.

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