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KRSMA seeks public participation

Posted: Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Kenai River Special Management Area advisory board is seeking knowledgeable members of the public who are interested in river issues and want to voice their ideas and concerns. These people would fill seats on the advisory board's committees and will lend their expertise on issues affecting the Kenai River and surrounding communities.

The advisory board unanimously supported a resolution that would restructure its committees Thursday with the goal of reaching out and gaining public input. Each committee addresses a different aspect of the river, from land development issues to contention between user groups. As a whole, the committees are designed to help the board come up with a comprehensive plan for the Kenai River.

"I'm open to all different individuals to be part of the committee process," said KRSMA board president David Carey, adding that interested individuals have to submit a written request stating what committee they would like to be on. "We need people that have a general interest. They just know they care for the river, (they're) not coming with a particular thing they're planning to change or do."

The board would gain vital information on what issues the public thinks are important and individuals will come away with a better understanding of what authority the board has. Carey said more than 20 people showed up at Thursday's meeting because a rumor circulated that the board was going to ban all festivals along the river even though the board doesn't have the authority to do that. The board let the group voice their concerns and told them they couldn't make that decision, but Carey said public input would have quelled this rumor.

"That's not our role. We don't deal with festivals," he said. "We need people who have ideas of how to allow us to enjoy the river and how the river could be complementary with what we do with our lives."

One example of the type of knowledge the board seeks is technical knowledge. Carey said Travis Swanson of Ron's Honda Center spoke about the new motor regulations. Swanson answered questions and provided input to folks who, while they may be familiar with fishing laws, were completely clueless when it came to the technical side of things. Carey said board members were able to provide Swanson with more information about the new boating regulations.

Even though members of the public will be able to participate in discussions, Carey said only members of the board will be able to vote. Because most people have a tendency to lose interest in the process after their issue has been voted upon, three voting board members will have a seat on each committee in order to maintain a quorum. This would allow the public to voice their input and share advice while minimizing contention between voting groups.

"Our number one goal is to get the public involved and (get) education out to the public," Carey said. "On the larger level we need to clearly find out what the regulations are and how we are involved in the process of implementation."

The board will also invite a representative from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources to answer board members' questions and explain the new regulations and how they affect the Kenai River Special Management Area. Carey said this year, the board will examine what is going on in terms of the state of Alaska and management of the Kenai River and how the board fits into it.

"I've given the board a week to provide all the questions they want to know," he said. "When I invite him (I'll) list all the concerns."

Written requests to join a KRSMA board committee can be submitted to Carey at the Soldotna City Hall or they can be e-mailed to him at dcarey@ci.soldotna.ak.us.

Jessica Cejnar can be reached at jessica.cejnar@peninsulaclarion.com.



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