If Robin West's plans come together, fishing should be safer at the Russian River this year.
It's not that the manager of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is predicting that less people will be getting hooked in the head while combat fishing. Fishers should be safer because there will be a new dock for the Russian River ferry.
"The underlying foundation of the dock has deteriorated significantly since it was installed in the 1960s and there were concerns for the safety of the ferry users and operators," West said. "The cooperative agreement with Kenai River Sportfishing Association Inc. will allow us to replace the dock and also perform bank restoration upstream of the dock."
Half the cost of the new dock will be paid by KRSA, but West did not know exactly how much that will be at this point.
"The bids haven't hit the streets yet," he said. "Let's just say it will be 'just the right price.'"
There are two segments to the project. One is replacing the old dock and the other is doing bank restoration around it.
The ferry is in the heart of what is popularly known as the 'combat fishing' area, where 50,000 to 60,000 anglers are known to visit in one summer.
The ferry, West said, carries "a couple hundred thousand" passengers a year, at $4 per adult and $2 per child, round trip.
"We want to see this work done this spring and completed by Memorial Day," West said.
Kelly Wolf, director of the Youth Restoration Corps, a group that restores riverbanks and re-vegetates trails on the Kenai Peninsula and Susitna River, also is eager to see the work finished.
"It's fantastic," he said. "We're looking at (the dock project) from a standpoint of 'Come on, let's hurry up boys, let's go.'"
Wolf's group has a restoration project on the other side of the river and needs the ferry to transfer 40 yards of soil there. But YRC is not involved in the bank restoration around the dock, since it is being bid out to a contractor.
"I used to be a contractor myself, and since we're a nonprofit, we can't take away from a general contractor," Wolf said. "It's not fair for us to do that, since we have over 100 companies sponsoring our projects."
West praised the quick action KRSA took in approving the deal.
"Brett Huber, executive director of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, was very positive from the first moment we approached him with the idea," West said. "And the association board of directors' actions approving the proposal confirmed that support."
The dock will be owned by the refuge, but the ferry facility still will be operated by a contract vendor.
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