Editorial: Peninsula residents deserve chance to participate in fish board process

The Alaska Board of Fisheries may have just had its Upper Cook Inlet meeting earlier this year, but stakeholders already are looking forward to 2020 and the next Upper Cook Inlet meeting.

 

Specifically, local municipal governments are urging the board to meet on the central Kenai Peninsula — something it hasn’t done since 1999. The board will consider the location for the 2020 meeting at a work session this week.

Last Tuesday, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly passed a resolution asking the board to meet here, while city councils in Kenai and Soldotna passed similar resolutions at recent meetings.

“Upper Cook Inlet finfish issues are vitally important to and directly impact residents, municipal governments, and communities on the Kenai Peninsula, and the majority of Upper Cook Inlet finfish proposals considered by the Board of Fisheries pertain to central Kenai Peninsula area watersheds,” reads the resolution. “… It would be beneficial for the Board of Fisheries’ members to hear from members of the public from the Kenai Peninsula Borough as well as Anchorage and Matanuska Susitna Borough residents, and to view firsthand the rivers and the infrastructure created by the finfish fisheries; and … the costs and travel time to attend meetings outside the Kenai Peninsula pose a significant burden to local residents, limiting participation and the Board of Fisheries’ ability to benefit from local knowledge.”

We whole-heartedly agree with those sentiments. Since that 1999 meetings, the fish board has held six Upper Cook Inlet meetings in Anchorage, despite the fact that the vast majority of the proposals considered involve the Kenai and Kasilof rivers. The board has called Anchorage a neutral location in the Upper Cook Inlet fish wars, but the fact of the matter is that holding the meeting — which lasts up to two weeks — in Anchorage has made much of the proceedings inaccessible to the average Kenai Peninsula resident.

The fish board has a number of new members since it last planned a location for an Upper Cook Inlet meeting, including Soldotna resident Robert Ruffner. We hope that the current requests to meet on the Kenai Peninsula won’t fall on deaf ears. Kenai Peninsula residents deserve an opportunity to fully participate in a process that so greatly impacts our day to day lives.

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