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Letters to the Editor

Posted: Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Does Southcentral have10-year or 25-year supply of natural gas?

Has a miracle occurred? How did we miss it? Just a few weeks ago the borough's oil and gas man got statewide news coverage reporting that southcentral had a 10-year supply of natural gas. Now the miracle.

Last week he claims we have a 25-year supply! In just a few short weeks 15 years of supplies have been found. It must be divine intervention because 15-year supplies cannot be found and documented in just a few weeks.

Since I don't believe we have had divine intervention, I looked at the possibilities. The O&G man was gassing us a few weeks ago, or he is gassing us now. Or, he really does not know, so he has gassed us both times. Or, the implications of just a 10-year supply has rattled politicians from the borough mayor to the governor, and the O&G man was ordered to change his tune.

If 10 years, then why aren't they doing something about it? If 25 years, they don't have to be rushed. Politicians have always been known to change or hide unfavorable facts.

The reason the 10-year supply rattles is that any gas from the North Slope is 15 to 20 years away. This is dependent upon the supply of natural gas in the Lower 48. Rising prices have led to massive exploration and development there. As I have pointed out in the past, and it was confirmed recently by a state business journal, there is no market for Alaska gas in the Pacific basin, so there will be no pipeline to Valdez to export it. Thus no spur to Cook Inlet. We'll get a North Slope gas line spur only when gas is needed in the Lower 48 in 15 to 20 years.

The borough's O&G man is a glib, clever fellow with potential politician ambitions. I am sure he will come up with some soothing, schmoozing explanation.

William J. Phillips

Kenai

KRSMA board should be studied for potential conflicts of interest

The Jan. 20 headline article concerning the Kenai River Special Management Area advisory board and the restriction on guiding permits on the Kenai River begs scrutiny of the conflicts of interest in its key provisions.

Although Acting Commissioner Marty Rutherford may have been trying to craft a compromise that will meet constitutional muster, this entire situation demands closer investigation to see if the moratorium is fair, equitable, necessary and will solve the alleged problems.

First: It is improper that KRSMA has grouped the upper Kenai River with the lower Kenai River as if they were the same fishery. They are not the same and should not be treated as such. The upper river is nonmotorized so there are no wakes, no reckless drivers, no king salmon (illegal to fish for on the upper river), and no constituency complaining about too many boats on the river. Also there are only 20 Kenai National Wildlife Refuge permits issued to outfitters, so that section from Sportsman's Landing to Skilak Lake is already regulated.

The upper Kenai River needs specific regulations rather than the arbitrary "one size fits all" approach used by KRSMA. There should be two types of permits and stickers for guide boats if KRSMA insists on restricting guiding in any manner, one for the upper river and one for the lower river.

Otherwise, when business is slow or restricted on the lower river those guides will move to the upper river and cause crowding problems. The converse is also true with upper river guide boats moving to the lower river.

Second: The KRSMA proposal has placed outfitters in a financially vulnerable position. A guide-oriented moratorium will give inordinate union-type power to the guides to strike against or manipulate outfitters not unlike the professional baseball players association. A surprise work stoppage or switch to another outfitter to coerce additional wages, commissions, health care, sick leave, etc., could raise havoc with the guiding industry.

For example: Suppose a guide just decides to stop guiding but doesn't turn in his permit (he would be foolish to turn it in). How would an outfitter replace him without taking a guide from another outfitter and starting the cycle all over again? Would there be a waiting pool to select from? What would this do to the necessary rapport between an unknown guide and the outfitter? This "guide-only" orientation to restrictions could cripple the outfitters and perhaps bankrupt the weaker ones, while the more affluent outfitters could survive creating an elite group. Furthermore, it will impact the affordability of charters, and will place peninsula outfitters at a disadvantage with other Kenai Peninsula businesses and guiding businesses in other sections of Alaska.

Third: Is a moratorium really necessary or has it been precipitated by the very members of the KRSMA board who have a conflict of interest and who would benefit financially if the number of guides was reduced and the industry was to collapse? Is the moratorium being driven by science or politics, or is it by KRSMA board members who want the river for themselves?

In December of 1997, the Kenai Peninsula Borough passed Resolution 97-089 which in Section 3 said, "That the Commissioner revisit the composition of this Board to ensure it properly represents user groups and to minimize the real or apparent conflict of interest in its members." Although it is a good thing to have someone in the guiding business on the board, I seriously question whether that person should have a vote. Remember, the smaller the pool the more powerful the guides become and the stronger outfitters, who also are guides, become.

Fourth: River guiding is the linchpin to all other tourism segments and therefore has a major impact on the economy of the Kenai Peninsula. The contributions in sales tax to the borough and individual incorporated communities is worth looking at.

Order Number 214, signed by Jim Stratton, director of the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, and implemented on Nov. 22, 2002, is the supposed authority for restricting the guides. The order states "Even half of the guides themselves supported limiting their numbers." Well, of course, they would. They are already in the pool. The less people in the pool the more those in the pool can exploit their position for financial gain at the expense of the outfitter and the client.

Although navigable waters oversight is delegated to the Department of Natural Resources, it behooves DNR and KRSMA to scope this dramatic development with the various Fish and Game advisory committees in the Kenai Peninsula Borough and with well advertised public meetings. It is interesting that Order 214 was issued on Nov. 22, 2002, after the season ended and many outfitters and their guides were "outside." There was no timely warning that a moratorium was in the works.

This entire process requires close scrutiny because it is obvious there is a "special interest" driving the process. I urge those who agree to write or call Tom Irwin, who is the new commissioner of DNR, at (907) 465-2400 in Juneau or (907) 269-8431 in Anchorage.

After all, the Kenai River belongs to all of us, not just a non-elected small group of bureaucrats with special interests.

George R. Siter Jr.

Cooper Landing

Fish and Game Advisory Committee member

Kenai River management about politics, money, not resource

It looks like we have just gone "limited entry" on sport fishing. If a guide decides not to fish for a season, his permit should be removed from the total guide permits. This is a good, effective way to lower the guides on the Kenai River.

I am a long-time Alaskan and not a guide. It's ridiculously obvious that there are far too many guides on the Kenai River. Anyone that feels that is not the case is either a guide or makes his living indirectly from the guides -- such as bed and breakfast owners, etc.

This whole issue has never been about the resource. It's about politics and money. Bottom line.

Robert E. Taylor

Kenai



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