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With proposal in hand, anadromous task force seeks input

Posted: February 27, 2013 - 10:03pm  |  Updated: February 28, 2013 - 11:32am

Repeal, rework and re-notice.

For more than a year, that’s been the demand and a rallying cry of those opposed to an expansion of the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s anadromous waters habitat protection code. That measure — Ordinance 2011-12 — is onerous and steps on the toes of private property owners, opponents say.

For months, a task force appointed by Borough Mayor Mike Navarre has examined issues those opponents have hammered on surrounding the expansion and its pending implementation on the east side of the borough.

However, Paul Ostrander, the task force’s facilitator and borough chief of staff, contends the group has accomplished what opponents sought, and more, through a recently approved, but not yet final proposed ordinance.

“It has taken the steps and basically done exactly what a lot of folks were asking for at the beginning,” he said. “... The results that you are seeing here are the results of the process that is working correctly and local government that’s being transparent and addressing concerns.”

The measure repeals the ordinance for the east side of the borough, eliminates at least 100 streams previously included in code that lacked biological justification, severs a link between the state’s anadromous streams atlas and the borough’s habitat protection code and, if eventually taken up by the assembly, would restart the public comment process and trigger a massive direct notification of property owners.

The proposal was created by combining recommendations from task force members Ken Tarbox, Ray Tauriainen and Bill Smith. It was approved as a whole after being divided into four sections, each of which were voted on at the task force’s Feb. 21 meeting.

In two sections, the changes received unanimous support; in one section changes were approved 6-2 with members Fred Braun and Stacy Oliva casting the dissenting votes; and the other section was approved 7-1 with Braun dissenting, said borough clerk Johni Blankenship.

“You can call it repealed if you want, but it has been removed,” Ostrander said of the expansion created by Ordinance 2011-12. “And then what (the task force’s ordinance) does is it starts the process over. Then what it attempts to do is address some of the significant concerns that people have brought up throughout this process.”

Now that the measure has the majority support of the task force, the group of assembly members, biologists, private property rights activists and others will take it on the road to several town hall meetings to see if they got it right, Ostrander said.

The task force will be looking for input on the proposed ordinance. Members won’t be debating the issue with the public, Ostrander said, but rather hoping to absorb the public’s comments and possibly use them to further shape the measure.

“It is really an opportunity for the task force to hear concerns from the public and take those into consideration,” he said. “The task force will meet at least one more time before we make a final recommendation for the administration and the assembly.”

The task force’s host town hall meetings will be:

■ Nikiski Community Center, March 4, 6 p.m.

■ Anchor Point Senior Center, March 25, 6 p.m.

■ Moose Pass Community Center, April 9, 6 p.m.

The main thing the task force will be looking for, Ostrander said, are activities or current uses along anadromous waters residents think are appropriate and should continue that are not included in the code’s prior use rule.

“And any information they have that may be relevant to the amendment itself,” Ostrander said. “The other specific thing that we are looking for is, are there things they would like to see addressed in this amendment that are not?”

Ostrander said he understands there will be those who “still just don’t like it, period.” But, he said they will have an opportunity to speak about the measure to both the assembly and the planning commission.

The task force was first set up by Navarre to examine whether or not lakes were appropriate to be governed under the borough’s habitat protection code but soon snowballed to include the entire code. Despite its expanded scope, Ostrander said the group answered its original charge.

“The fact that this amendment has been approved by the task force — and specifically addresses lakes and the uses on lakes and tries to accommodate those — answers that question in my opinion,” he said.

Among the changes that needed to be made to the code beyond those concerning lakes, Ostrander said, included:

■ Notification

Ostrander said if the assembly takes up the task force’s ordinance every property owner affected will be noticed by the borough thanks to the recent assembly passage of Ordinance 2012-39, which Tauriainen sponsored.

■ Public comment

The ordinance will allow the public to be involved in the public process again giving them an opportunity to testify to the task force, planning commission and the assembly. Ostrander said the assembly may even have more than one comment period on the ordinance given the large public interest in the matter.

■ Transparency

The ordinance severs a connection with the state’s atlas of anadromous waters that Ostrander said was “almost impossible to find.” The new measure has an appendix of regulated streams and goes an additional step to identify and locate the regulated unnamed streams by which river or lake they connect with.

“Now it is much more transparent and now people know just by looking at the ordinance and not having to find this catalogue somewhere in the cloud and figure out what waters are affected,” Ostrander said.

■ Co-dependence

Ostrander said the proposed ordinance also eliminates the “questionable” automatic inclusion of waters selected through the Department of Fish and Game’s anadromous atlas into borough code. In addition it would establish a periodic review of the state’s anadromous waters atlas every three years and require that additions or deletions from the atlas will be presented to the borough planning commission and the borough assembly as proposed amendments, allowing for public comment. It further stipulates that any additions for consideration will be supported by related fish data.

■ Allowed uses

The proposed ordinance would also expand and further define portions of the code dealing with activities that do not require a permit — routine maintenance of existing landscape features like mowing, pruning, weeding, removing downed trees and planting native vegetation. It would also expand and further define portions of the code dealing with activities requiring a staff permit, and those requiring the more lengthy and costly conditional use permit.

For an expanded list of changes the ordinance would make and a digital copy of the proposed ordinance as released Wednesday, see this story online at www.peninsulaclarion.com.

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