Most Americans recognize that it is the government’s role to build and maintain infrastructure, like roads, airports and harbors, to support economic activity. Healthy freshwater salmon habitat is an essential part of the infrastructure for our commercial salmon, seafood processing, sportfishing and tourism industries. Rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands directly support the several hundred million dollars that salmon-related businesses bring to the local economy every year. We didn’t have to build this infrastructure but our government has the responsibility to maintain it. Individual citizens and non-governmental organizations can help, but can’t do it on their own.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, Mayor’s Office and community volunteers are currently working hard to fine-tune an Ordinance (2011-12) to extend regulatory protections to critical stream-side and lake-side salmon habitat. They are doing what has to be done if we want both continued development and continued economic benefit from salmon. It requires some public investment to protect and maintain this infrastructure, but the return is well worth it.
I own lake-front property on the Kenai Peninsula and I support their efforts. Anyone who is worried that some restrictions on clearing and building within fifty feet of streams and lakes will ruin their property values should contemplate what will happen to property values around here if we lose our salmon runs.