Short term solution for dipnet fishery: more raking and trash collection, says Kenai council

In an effort to reduce the stress for Kenai residents and the mess that comes with the dipnet fishery season, the City of Kenai will ban public parking or camping on Old Cannery Road and move forward with an alternative for managing the fishery’s waste next year, Kenai City Council voted Wednesday night.

Because the Kenai Peninsula Borough owns half of Old Cannery Road, the city is currently negotiating with the borough for Kenai to manage the entire road, Kenai Mayor Pat Porter said.

The decision — which will usher in more signs and enforcement to the area — came after council debated for nearly an hour which management option to implement for next year’s dipnet season.

Alternative two, one of six that Kenai City Manager Rick Koch outlined for the council, will increase the city’s efforts to rake fish waste to the tide line during low tides and in collecting solid waste in trash bins. It will cost the city $172,350 in signs, four-wheelers, a tractor and rake, and operating expenses.

At the meeting, council members were faced with a resolution to accept alternative three — the “gut and gill” method — for managing the fishery next year. Council voted 6-2 to kill the resolution, permitting administration to move forward with alternative two. Council Members Mike Boyle and Bob Molloy voted in favor of the resolution.

“I don’t think there’s a single one of us that hasn’t thought about the different options and wrestled with them,” Vice Mayor Ryan Marquis said, but option two is the best choice, he said.

Had alternative three been accepted, dipnetters would be permitted to gut and gill their fish on the beach but required to take the rest home whole.

While Boyle supported alternative three because it would make the beach more acceptable for foot traffic and it is a step in the right direction for Molloy, Marquis said it would be a deterrent for dipnetters who were planning to stay in Kenai for the night. He said they would probably have to go home to set their catch on ice. It would be a loss of revenue for the city, he said.

Other council members supported alternative four, removal of the whole fish from the fishery.

“If we’re going to spend the money on enforcement, we might as well spend the money to get them off the beach,” Council Member Brian Gabriel Sr. said.

Council Member Terry Bookey said he wanted the city to move forward with that alternative, too. He said the city could re-evaluate after it had used the alternative to manage for a season.

But in a Feb. 6 council meeting Koch said alternative four would encourage dipnetters to dump fish carcasses off the roads on their way home.

The alternative would also be difficult to enforce, he said, as there is a limited number of officers that patrol the fishery and they would need to see the users dumping the fish carcasses to actually enforce the management strategy.

Koch said alternative two is a staged approach to the dipnet fishery’s final solution, alternative five.

That alternative would create a system to collect and remove fish waste from the beach.

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 a document prepared by Koch.

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

Council will meet next at 7 p.m., March 6 at City Hall, 210 Fidalgo Ave.

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

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