I would like to address the article "Attorney wants dipnet closure" in the March 7-8 issue of the Peninsula Clarion, written by Phil Hermanek.
It is no surprise to me, nor should it be to anyone else in Alaska, that a group of bureaucrats on the Kenai Peninsula is working overtime to exclude access to the Kenai River by the average Alaska resident.
You may recall that last fall the Kenai City Council proposed outlawing the launching of boats with old technology two-stroke engines from the Kenai City Dock. The resulting push to exclude two-stroke engines duped citizens into selling their two-stroke engines for $500. The controversy over the engine is still unresolved, except that you cannot use an older two-stroke on the Kenai River in the month of July. Two-stroke engines, which are oil injected, are excluded from the prohibition.
Concern for the pollution of the river and bank erosion had been addressed excluding the use of large engines of the river. Boat size, engine horsepower at the propeller and number of clients allowed in the boat was mandated to control damage. Engine power was set at 35 horsepower. Many people who use the river blatantly disregard horsepower restrictions.
Beginning in 2008 you will be allowed to use a 50 horsepower engine on the river. You will also be allowed to use a two-stroke engine except in the month of July.
Is that a surprise? Not for me. Dipnet fishing is in July and the two-stroke engine is the engine most used by those who really need the fish caught during that period. It is amazing to me that no one has complained about the large boats with the large engines used in the dipnet fishery. Is dune erosion really a concern?
We now have an alleged attorney who claims he will sue to close the fishery. My first thought was: "Who is funding this individual?" He (Jim Butler) claims he has photos that he presented to the February fish board hearings in Anchorage that showed large crowds of dipnetters and Kenai dune damage caused by them.
Is Butler the photographer of the photos? Did Butler also have photos of the dunes before the crowd arrived, or, better yet, before the damage caused by Mother Nature during the previous winter?
Those mentioned in the article by Phil Hermanek remind me of an ACLU tactic. There is a judge, attorney and council member out there who will agree with our position if we just keep looking. Ignore majority rule.
It is my belief that concern for water quality and dune-bank erosion became an issue not to protect the Kenai River but to eliminate the dipnet fishery. You cannot check water quality at the mouth of the Kenai during peak commercial fishing and blame contamination on one type of engine.
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