Kenai council fails to act on anti-pollution ordinance

Motor debate tabled

Posted: Friday, January 19, 2007

Efforts by the Kenai City Council to curb pollution in the Kenai River hit the skids Wednesday night, resurrecting fears that nothing is going to be done to clean the river.

Since early December, the council has been discussing pollution abatement by restricting the kinds of boats that may be launched at the city boat ramp.

After a third public hearing Wednesday, during which no one testified, the ordinance limiting use of the ramp to boats with four-cycle or direct-injection two-cycle engines was tabled indefinitely.

“It sounds like you’re merging onto the same circle of nothing getting done,” said Kenai Watershed Forum Executive Director Robert Ruffner.

“It seems like we’re stuck. We need to have some solutions,” Ruffner said.

The ordinance was initially suggested by council member Joe Moore in response to an Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation report showing total aromatic hydrocarbons — from gasoline-powered outboard engines — exceeded state water quality standards in many of the past 15 years.

The Alaska Department of Natural Resources also is proposing regulation changes that would limit boats on the Kenai River to 50-horsepower, four-cycle or direct injection two-cycle engines. If approved, the DNR rule would go into effect in 2008.

Council member Barry Eldridge said Wednesday he would like more time to study a draft boat-wake report and wait to see what action DNR takes.

Council member Rick Ross said he felt the city ordinance is premature.

“We don’t have the recommendations from DNR and DEC,” he said.

Ross also said other pollution control measures, such as means and methods of fishing, should be considered, in addition to the ban on two-stroke engines.

Council member Bob Molloy said he thought the intent of the city’s ordinance is “laudable,” but said restricting boats from using the city boat launch this year, before the state takes any similar action, could create more problems.

Fishermen would launch their boats upriver and motor down to dipnet at the mouth of the river, adding to the length of time pollution would be getting into the river.

“I don’t want it to create problems,” Molloy said.

“I’m a little angry,” Moore said. “The city of Kenai did not cause this problem and the city is carrying the brunt of this impaired designation.”

The DEC has asked the federal Environmental Protection Agency to designate the Kenai River as Category 5 Impaired because of the high levels of hydrocarbons.

Moore said he would like to discuss the city’s ability to regulate activities on the river through its land use zoning powers over private boat launches, but Ross said he does not feel the city has the resources to go to court and does not have the manpower resources needed to enforce such regulations on the river.

“If we put this forward, we could be further exacerbating the problem,” Ross said.

Student representative Adam DeMello said the city’s ordinance is receiving much discussion among students at Kenai Central High School.

Eldridge said, “The problem I see is we have too many guides on the river ... . The problem is the agencies have not taken any action over the years.”

“If we want to be real leaders, make the river drift only,” said council member Linda Swarner.

After moving to table the ordinance, Moore said, “I will not let this die.”

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