Letters to the Editor

Posted: Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Study of subsistence uses, needs in Cook Inlet set for this spring

Recently I've fielded some questions about the pending study of subsistence fish uses and needs on the Kenai Peninsula and about the future of the "rural" designation for Sitka. The below updates are the most recent information I have on these issues.

Kenai Subsistence Study

A study of subsistence fishing uses and needs on federal waters in Cook Inlet will start this spring and continue at least one year. The study is aimed at helping define parameters of federal subsistence fishing in the region, including on the upper Kenai River.

In December 2001, the Federal Subsistence Board established a subsistence fishery for salmon, Dolly Varden and trout on federal waters in Cook Inlet, with gear and bag limits identical to the state's sport fishing regulations. Fishing is open to all of Alaska's rural residents, but federal managers are working to more specifically define traditional users and uses. The study is expected to provide background for those decisions. ("Federal waters" are fresh waters running through conservation system units in the Cook Inlet region, including the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Chugach National Forest, Lake Clark National Park and Denali National Park.)

The first phase of the study, developing an "investigation plan," will start in April or May and will include talking with public focus groups about historic uses of fish on federal waters in Cook Inlet. It's funded at $33,800.

In the fall, interviews and surveys will be conducted in the region to gather information about subsistence uses and needs. When that information is compiled, a set of roundtable discussions will be held in spring 2003 on the Kenai Peninsula and in Anchorage, including with groups that might be affected by the new fishery. The discussions will be aimed at developing a strategy for re-introducing subsistence fishing for salmon and trout in the region.

The study will be conducted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's Division of Subsistence, at the direction of the federal Office of Subsistence Management. OSM will fund the study and oversee it.

Pat Petrivelli of the Office of Subsistence Management and Jim Fall of the state Division of Subsistence are collaborating on the project. They expect to have more information on the study by April.

Sitka Rural Determination

The methodology for determining what Alaska communities are designated "rural" for subsistence under Title 8 of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act is under review by the Federal Subsistence Board.

By law, rural determinations must be reviewed by the Federal Subsistence Board every 10 years. As the first determinations were made in 1991, the determinations are due to be reviewed again.

But before they are, the Federal Subsistence Board has contracted for an independent review of its methodology in making these determinations. In September 2001, the University of Alaska's Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) was awarded a contract to conduct the review.

ISER has made a review of existing literature and currently is holding "focus group" meetings to solicit and record public perceptions about what criteria and measures should be considered when distinguishing between "rural" and "non-rural" communities.

Two focus group meetings have been held: in Kotzebue, Jan. 18, and in Deering, Jan. 21. The remaining meetings will be held in Ketchikan-Saxman, Kenai-Soldotna, Fairbanks and Copper Center. In the next five months, ISER will develop two methodologies, or formulas, for distinguishing between "rural" and "non-rural" communities for the federal subsistence priority.

A public review of the two formulas is scheduled for fall 2002, with a final decision by the Federal Subsistence Board expected in late 2002.

The board may choose to reaffirm its current formula or adopt a new one. Regional Advisory Council recommendations and Federal Subsistence Board decisions on final statewide rural/non-rural determinations are scheduled for 2003.

Tom Morphet

Subsistence Outreach Coordinator

United Fishermen of Alaska

www.subsistmgtinfo.org

Soldotna should apply pressure to purchase property for bridge

In just a few words it occurs to me that the solution to the bridge problem in Soldotna is to purchase property from the owner on the east side of the bridge to put in an additional three lanes. I recognize that approvals must be acquired from various agencies and sources. Soldotna needs to apply the heat to get it done.

I do not understand why five lanes must be joined together. I hope you will be kind enough to make my comments available to all interested parties and agencies involved.

Edward O. King

Soldotna

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