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Borough’s name not on deed to property

Posted: June 15, 2012 - 9:01am

Did the KPB overstep its bounds with the Anadromous Streams Ordinance? One could make that case. Whether 50 feet or 100 feet above high water mark, the property in question is private property, and Borough's name is not on deed.

An ordinance geared to protect "near-stream habitat of all anadromous streams -- which host fish that migrate from the sea and breed in fresh water -- in the borough 50 feet up the bank from the ordinary high water mark" opens a door. Having opened that door, how will the Assembly choose to deal with other things directly impacting the habitat addressed? Combat fishing along the Kenai? Commercial enterprises where numbers are key and greed a factor -- situations where concern for habitat gets lost in the shuffle? 

Zoning, in my experience, has been relevant to what residents want and only as effective as residents' willingness to actively enforce it or be bound by it. Whereas a road project engineer could not have brush cutting done within a specific window of time given risk of disturbing nesting birds, people with off-road vehicles -- dirt bikes, 4-wheelers, etc., used relevant right-of-ways with apparent impunity and oblivious to damage to driveways, road shoulders, habitat, and laws on the books regarding its use. Cost, means, and commitment to enforcement are relevant.

While I understand the underlying issue, the property owner (like the engineer) may be the one with the target on the back -- easy to find and fine. Onus for having salmon around for years to come is not the sole purview of the landowner. Angst? How have Borough officials dealt with relevant issues in the past, and what is meant by "probably" in Mohorcich's statement: "If it is a non-commercial use you can still utilize that property probably just exactly the way you are accessing it and utilizing it right now"? To the angst add a lack of buy-in on my part regarding Mr. Navarre's contention that what has been "experienced and dealt with" on the Kenai is indicative that "an ordinance that protects habitat and also that ensures property rights can work." Acquaintances having property along the Kenai neither characterized general public as particularly respectful of private property nor appreciated what Borough Assembly now touts as a buffer zone being used as an outdoor biffy occasionally. In addition, I personally do not perceive myriads of people inundating the Kenai in the summer -- lining banks and/or making their way up and down the river by boat, as a recipe for a particularly habitat friendly environment.

Note: River Center referenced as "pushing" the ordinance is home to members of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Department and billed as a "One-Stop Permit Shopping" opportunity, a multi-agency permitting, information, and education center. Reaction to an "extensive heads up to property owners," should have come as no surprise to them. Did I see the referendum petition it engendered as in conflict with an Alaska statute and a challenge to Assembly authority? No.

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