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Kenai city council holds dipnet work session Tuesday

Posted: March 3, 2014 - 9:06pm  |  Updated: March 3, 2014 - 9:21pm

The Kenai City Council will hold another work session to discuss the dipnet fishery at 6 p.m. tonight at City Hall.

City Manager Rick Koch said the work session is a continuation of discussion from the previous work session on Jan. 6 in which the council reviewed the 2013 Dipnet Fishery Report and heard public testimony on citizens’ concerns as the City of Kenai prepares for the 2014 season.

Koch said the two main issues for the council to consider is how to manage public safety and cleanliness in dealing with the thousands of people that arrive at the mouth of the Kenai River for the July 10-31 dipnet season.

In an attempt to receive help on both matters, Koch attended the Board of Fisheries meeting in Anchorage last month on behalf of the City of Kenai and requested an end to the 24-hour opening of the Kenai River dipnet fishery. The BOF denied that request.

Koch said he would make a recommendation to council to close the beach between the hours of 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. to allow the city time to clean the beach. Because the city owns the land, it is within its authority to close the beach as a measure of safety and public health, he said.

Koch said the city needs time to clean up the fish waste left by dipnetters, service toilets and pick up Dumpsters and the best opportunity to do so is in the evening. The council gave administration the authority to close the beach during 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. last year in July.

The Parks and Recreation Department uses heavy equipment and trucks in the clean up process and if people were fishing at night, there is a risk of people getting hit, he said.

“Whether there are 100 people out fishing in the middle of the night is 100 too many to cleanup safely,” he said. “It is a safety issue that has little effect on the fishery.”

The Kenai Watershed Forum has concerns if the city goes forwards with a proposal to close the beach for a time during the dipnet season.

At the Feb. 19 Kenai City Council meeting, Kenai Watershed Forum Executive Director Robert Ruffner addressed the council on the unintended impact of beach closure. He said if the city restricts access to the water at night, potentially people could try to gain river access upstream and disrupt wetland vegetation, rather than migrating to the traditional fishing areas on the sand.

Ruffner said he was disappointed with the state’s lack of protection of the Kenai River.

“We spent a lot of time and energy to help take care of the river,” he said. “(The state) needs to get it together.”

Ruffner said the impact of people walking on wetland vegetation could be devastating. He said it takes 10-15 years to get the natural vegetation to come back if the damage is severe enough.

Among other items of discussion during the dipnet season, Koch said the city is considering the elimination of on-street parking in Old Town and in-park parking without a permit in Municipal Park to alleviate traffic congestion and parking problems. The city is also looking to eliminate on-street parking along South Forest Drive to make the roads safe and passable, he said.

Koch said one of the items they did not get to at the last work session is an amendment in the fee schedule. In 2013, parking and camping fees to the north and south beaches increased to help offset the costs of garbage removal and cleanup efforts, according to the report from Kenai Finance Director Terry Eubank.

The time period for parking fees was changed from 12 hours from the time of payment to 24 hours beginning daily at 5 a.m. Camping fees were charged per night and required campers to vacate their site by noon. The report said, “significant confusion occurred with this fee structure and the department will be recommending a change in fee structure for the 2014 fishery.”

Revenues for 2013 were $673,292, nearly $43,000 less than the budgeted amount, according to the report.

At the Jan. 6 work session, the council heard complaints from several citizens on the enforcement in the south beach area off Old Cannery Road. Koch said ATV four-wheelers were common in the area given the distance to walk from parking to the water. He said people may try to convince the city to close motorized traffic in south beach and step up enforcement of camping and campfires, but if such events do not occur on city property, there is nothing the city can do, he said.

“Trying to catch four-wheelers is like trying to catch water in your hand,” he said.

Following the dipnet work session, the council will also discuss expenditures from miscellaneous Legislative funds and discuss a change in council travel policy.

 

Reach Dan Balmer at daniel.balmer@peninsulaclarion.com

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ManInBlack
182
Points
ManInBlack 03/04/14 - 08:41 am
2
0
ricky, ricky, ricky....

Your greed continues to show through your "safety concerns" of people parking on streets where you (schity of kenai) can't charge them. This whole debacle could be CONSIDERABLY remedied by two common sense approaches:

1) Close the beach from 11:00 pm to 6:00 am (due to people who almost drown at night during the extreme tides)

2) No cleaning of fish on the beach (no equipment or personell needed to rake fish around until the incoming tide washes them back up to whence you raked them)

Closing the beach at night would keep folks from risking their personal safety during the extreme tides, as well as the fact that during the night hours people use the beach and/or grasslands as a toilet (it's dark and closer than the restrooms). It is also during these hours that folks tend to get more intoxicated, increasing the risk of confrontations and poor decision making.

Not allowing fish to be cleaned on the beach eliminates the fish waste on the beach. Period. It also helps make sure that over-harvesting is minimized (I have seen with my own eyes the same anchorage families spend the ENTIRE 20 day period at one spot on the beach, fileting every fish that comes out of the water, loading up a dozen coolers, multiple times. These spots also happen to be the filthiest with left behind garbage, clothing, and human waste).

Just as a side note, it is reprehensible, and further shows the self serving nature of ricky and friends, that residents of the illustrious schity of kenai must pay to park in a municipal park that our city property taxes already go towards maintaining (a $ amount that is magically not factored into the "disappointing revenue" figures of the "cost" of dipnetting).

AK4LIFE
64
Points
AK4LIFE 03/05/14 - 07:47 am
0
0
ManInBlack

You make some very good points, but I don't believe his intentions have anything to do with greed! It's not like he gets to put any of that money in his pocket. The more this costs the city the more taxes we are going to pay! Part of his job is to consider the concerns of Kenai residents & try to come up with resolutions much like you have suggested. In stead of complaining about additional fees that you already contribute to through taxes, maybe suggest some kind of exception for local tax payers. Proof maybe being property tax records, much like the swimming pool out north. Something has to be done in all aspects of the dip netting fishery & traffic/parking is one of them. Seems the only solution to educate & gain respect for this property is by way of fees or fines, esp. When a mass majority is non-local. If these things don't happen then there is no respect & it will only get worse.

AK4LIFE
64
Points
AK4LIFE 03/05/14 - 01:07 pm
0
0
I understand your frustration

I understand your frustration & your right I would have a better understanding if I took the time to attend the meetings. I guess I just don't understand how it's greedy for the city to try & find alternative ways of holding this user group (which includes myself) financially responsible for using city property & the safety, cleaning, repairs & anything else associated with this particular fishery. Tax payers have been covering the bill up until the last couple years & the costs are growing along with the number of participants. I'd say a majority of tax payers esp. Those whom don't participate would rather the funding come from the users of the fishery. It's a small time frame that these things would be implemented & I'd hate for the funding have to come from say winter road maintenance just so it can cover the costs of this. Also the idea of bringing fish of the beach has a lot of benefits, but like the city says people will dispose of caucuses in ways residents will not appreciate & it will have to be enforced. And then once again, local tax payers will have to pay for that additional enforcement. I know a lot of people that would be in favor of some kind of local discount or exemption, maybe some kind of petition would convince the city it's something the resident tax payers deserve, over the opinions of the mat-su & anchorage participants. It's a tough situation & people will be disappointed on all sides.

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