Wolf wants more stream habitat code scrutiny

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly discussed Tuesday whether or not to introduce an ordinance that would require more thorough reporting and examination of the benefits and effectiveness of the borough’s andaromous habitat protection code.


Freshman assembly member Kelly Wolf sought to introduce Ordinance 2013-08, which requests an annual report from the Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Department to collect a variety of data and generate a written report to assess the benefits of KPB 21.18. That section of borough code outlines the 50-foot anadromous waters habitat protection, a recent of expansion of which has forced public dialogue and a borough administration-created task force to examine its pros and cons and suggest targeted changes to it.

Normally, assembly ordinances up for introduction are included in the assembly’s consent agenda and unanimously set for a later public hearing after which sets in motion an assembly vote on the matter.

Assembly member Mako Haggerty, however, moved to pull the ordinance from the consent agenda to debate whether or not the assembly should set Wolf’s ordinance for public hearing at all.

Haggerty said his objection to the ordinance was related to its timing and not its content.

“I think it is kind of putting the cart before the horse,” he said. “We’ve got a Task Force that’s been working hard on this and I would kind of like to hear what they have to say before we make decisions that pertain to this ordinance.”

Ultimately, the assembly voted to introduce the ordinance 7-1, with the dissenting vote coming from Haggerty. Hal Smalley was absent. Public hearing on the measure is set for the assembly’s March 19 meeting.

Wolf’s newest effort to address the anadromous waters habitat protection code comes on the heels of his attempt to repeal a recent expansion of the borough’s habitat protection. Wolf, however, withdrew the repeal ordinance citing concerns from borough administration about possible violations of Alaska’s Open Meetings Act stemming from an email he sent to all assembly members.

In addition to the annual written report, Wolfs new Ordinance 2013-08 calls for the planning department to analyze all expenses required to implement, enforce and oversee all borough habitat protection ordinances.

Among other things to be included in the annual report, the ordinance would require a list of permits issued, applications declined and the number of violations recorded. It also requires a number of pieces of information not directly related to the code, such as the results of borough outreach education events, the number of river miles closed to foot traffic to protect banks, the total number of commercial operators that navigate anadromous rivers and streams and the total number of permitted projects that failed or required reconstruction, among others.

The ordinance also alleges that required planning department reviews that were to be completed every other year detailing the code’s benefits were never presented since its 1996 enactment.

Wolf countered Haggerty’s comments and said he doubts the Task Force would suggest a comprehensive review of the benefits of the whole code. The ordinance, Wolf said, would provide for a more in-depth look at the code and that would benefit the public.

“We want the public to weigh in and watch us,” he said. “This is an opportunity.”

Haggerty agreed he could see the benefit of more oversight and reporting on the ordinance, but said he would like to consider the ordinance after the assembly sees what the Task Force generates.

Assembly member Sue McClure suggested assembly introduce the ordinance and postpone the vote until the assembly hears from the Task Force.

Ray Tauriainen, an assembly member who also serves on the Task Force, said he was unsure if the group would weigh in on that particular portion of the code or not.

“I don’t have a real warm and fuzzy feeling about this comprehensive report and what it is really going to do for us, but at this point, I’ll probably be in favor of introducing it, but I don’t know where I’ll be on final,” he said.

Assembly member Brent Johnson shared a similar sentiment.

“I hate to object to an assembly member introducing something,” he said. “I’m glad to see this one is different than the one Mr. Wolf was offering a month ago and I would have objected to that one.

“But this I’ll probably be voting in favor of and let it sort its way through the assembly. I don’t necessarily support it, but at the same time I don’t really want to kill it before it is introduced.”

Assembly member Charlie Pierce said he would like the public to weigh in on the code and hopes it “strives toward making things better.”

“I think that we should respect the introduction process and really, you look at it, and I think ... for the most part it is just more oversight and I am not opposed to that,” he said. “It gives folks an opportunity to look at what we are doing and seeing what we are doing is reasonable and makes sense.”

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