Kenai’s vice mayor told the city council Wednesday, to wait for other agencies to take measures to remove aromatic hydrocarbons from the Kenai River “is irresponsible.”
Joe Moore was referring to a proposed regulation change by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources geared toward removing two-stroke outboard engines from the river, and to a recommendation by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation that the river be listed as “Category 5 Impaired” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Moore has previously authored city regulations that would ban boats with the polluting two-stroke engines from being launched at the Kenai Municipal boat launch.
Some have argued the ban would force boaters upriver, actually putting them on the water longer as they motor down to fish or dipnet near the mouth of the river.
Moore had asked City Attorney Cary Graves to research Kenai’s authority to regulate boat launches within city limits.
In a memorandum to the council, Graves said the Alaska Constitution “grants home rule municipalities ‘all legislative powers not prohibited by law or charter.’”
However, he also said the courts would probably pre-empt the city from enacting restrictions that differ from state regulations.
At the suggestion of Mayor Pat Porter, the council scheduled a work session on Graves’ memo for 5 p.m. Feb. 21.
In other business, the council heard from engineering consultants Scott Hattenburg and Lorie Dilley on an arsenic groundwater study the consultants completed for the city.
Dilley recommended the city consider shallow wells in the Eagle Rock vicinity, saying, “Arsenic concentrations tend to be lower in shallower wells wells less than 100 feet deep.”
Since federal EPA standards changed last year, two of the city’s three water wells have arsenic levels exceeding the new 10 parts per billion limit. The third well contains tannins or organics that give Kenai drinking water a brown color.
Dilley said the city should contact suppliers of water treatment plant products and determine whether to drill a new well or begin treating city water. She said if the city decides on a new well, her first recommendation would be the Eagle Rock vicinity.
“What would a shallow well at Eagle Rock do to the (residential) wells in that area?” asked council member Rick Ross.
Dilley said that would depend on the aquifer.
“We don’t know the aquifer well,” she said.
City Manager Rick Koch suggested the city revisit the cost of treating water.
“Because of new changes in treatment technology, preliminary numbers now are between a low of $20,000 and a high of $100,000,” Koch said.
When water treatment was looked into several years ago, he said the annual operating cost was approximately $250,000, which was considered not feasible at the time.
The council also heard from Casey Reynolds, economic development director for Wasilla, on a proposal seeking to change the state liquor law as it applies to upscale restaurant licensing.
Current law allows for one high-end restaurant liquor license per 1,500 residents in a community. Because communities such as Wasilla, Kenai and North Pole serve population areas outside their city limits that are many times their own population, the three to five licenses allowed are inadequate, Reynolds said.
A recommendation Wasilla is sending to the state Legislature seeks to allow boroughs to use some of their liquor license allocations for unincorporated communities, on a limited basis, to the cities, he said.
“When Wal-Mart comes to Kenai, national chains like Red Robin and Chili’s would not come because they cannot get a liquor license,” Reynolds said.
Moore said he would not want to see Kenai be in that position “three or four years down the road.”
At the suggestion of council member Linda Swarner, the proposal will be on the next meeting agenda as a discussion item.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek @peninsulaclarion.com.
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