A whole lot of nothing gets accomplished


Posted: Sunday, February 11, 2007

There’s nothing wrong with people disagreeing on an issue. However, when that issue is something so simple as determining a meeting date, it’s not hard to understand how last week’s Southcentral Alaska Federal Subsistence Regional Advisory Council Kenai Subsistence Subcommittee meeting went so far off the mark.

The goal was to talk about 12 peninsula fishery proposals to formulate recommendations to the Southcentral RAC before the group’s meeting March 13-16.

Unfortunately, that’s not quite how it went.

Not only were they unable to reach a consensus on peninsula fishery proposals, but apparently each topic was met with soap-boxing and a lack of focus due to personal interests.

Too bad. It was supposed to be an opportunity to focus on the methods, means, seasons and harvest limits for existing federal subsistence fishery proposals for the federal public waters on the Kenai, Kasilof and Swanson river drainages based on current customary and traditional use determinations established by the Federal Subsistence Board.

Representatives from the Salamatof Tribe, Ninilchik Tribe, Kenaitze Tribe, Kenai River Sportfishing Association, Kenai River Professional Guides Association, United Cook Inlet Drift Association, Kenai Peninsula Fisherman’s Association and communities of Cooper Landing, Hope and Ninilchik jumped from topic to topic for two days before eventually agreeing on one — just one — issue: the potential use of gillnets for subsistence fishing in the Kasilof and Kenai rivers. And even then, nothing was actually decided.

“I had hoped this meeting would be a place where people would come and express their own opinions and options and do some creative thinking about how to proceed without the overlay from the (OSM’s draft analysis) on where we could and couldn’t go. I thought the purpose of this group was to make a recommendation, rather than critique a recommendation that has already been made,” said Sky Starky, who represented the Ninilchik Tribal Council on the second day of the meeting.

“I think it wasn’t a complete failure, though,” Starkey said. “I think this was a beginning — a beginning dialogue toward people understanding Ninilchik is trying to be reasonable and is concerned about conservation, but also needs a subsistence fishery that is meaningful.”

Let’s hope so, because if not wanting a proliferation of nets in the river was the only issue everyone could agree on, there’s still quite a long way to go.

Further downriver ...

Gov. Sarah Palin made time last Sunday morning to take a look at the damage caused by ice jams in the Kenai River. Palin got word from Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor John Williams that estimates could be as high as $5 million. The infrastructure along the river has been 20 or more years in the making, he said. Now it’s floating downriver.

Flying high above, the governor got a good look at some serious debris — stairs, docks, boardwalks — caught in the ice that was backing up water, causing flood damage around Big Eddy. The majority of the damage was caused in Soldotna, prompting Mayor Dave Carey to declare disaster. City damage alone was estimated between $1.25 million and $2 million.

Gone are parts of Soldotna Creek Park and Centennial Park. And the borough is in a fix because repair costs likely will have to come out of their — our — pockets.

Five million dollars. And it could be higher. Until the ice melts, the full extent of the damage won’t be known.

This is hardly the first time ice jams have caused flooding in the river. It flooded in recent years when it rose in 1990, 1992 and 2005, according to the borough Web site.

Although the big ones may be far and few between, there’s always ice on the river. That’s why Carey’s idea to make the stairs and docks retractable is appealing. It may be spendy now, but how much will it cost us later when the next major ice jam and flooding have us kicking ourselves that we weren’t proactive?

Assistance from the state would be ideal. And having Palin in our neck of the woods for a firsthand look can’t hurt in getting the ball rolling for a solution.

It’s a solid idea. Let’s just hope it gets a serious look — and it isn’t put on ice.

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