Coalition takes on hydrocarbons

City councils, assembly partner up to fight Kenai River pollution

Posted: Thursday, March 29, 2007

Local government partnered up this week seeking a solution to Kenai River hydrocarbon pollution that so far has stymied many a state agency.

Representatives from the Kenai and Soldotna city councils and the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly will now take their collective ideas back to their respective governments in hopes of taking action for a local cure rather than waiting for the federal government to act, according to Ed Sleater, a Soldotna City Council member, who attended the meeting Monday night.

Sleater said a consensus reached by the joint committee would send a proposal to the Alaska Board of Fisheries, which must be received by April 10, in order to be considered for action this year.

Acknowledging that the elevated levels of aromatic hydrocarbons from outboard engines occur only for a couple weeks in July, Sleater said the group zeroed in on doing something in July.

“Short of an all-out ban of two-stroke (engines), we would ask the board to limit motor run time, limit the number of boats on the river, increase the use of electric motors and drift boats,” Sleater said. “These are all ideas we threw out there.”

The joint committee was formed as part of a response to a Department of Environmental Conservation report showing hydrocarbons from gasoline-powered outboard engines often exceeded state water quality standards in July during the past 15 years.

DEC asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to list the Kenai River as Category 5 Impaired because of the pollution.

During public meetings about the water pollution, DEC, the Department of Fish and Game and the Department of Natural Resources all reported an awareness of the issue, but none indicated having jurisdiction to take action.

In addition to agreeing to meet together to come up with a local solution, the cities and the borough forwarded a joint resolution to Gov. Sarah Palin asking that she designate one specific state agency to take the lead in the fight to clean up the river.

The joint resolution also calls for the local governments to work together to remove and keep the river from the federal impaired water body list. It asks state and federal agencies to take action; recommends the three local bodies work on regulatory actions within their own jurisdictions; and proposes developing the Board of Fisheries request to consider fishing rules designed to curtail pollution.

Also attending Monday’s meeting were Soldotna council member Shane Horan, Kenai council members Rick Ross and Joe Moore, borough assembly member Pete Sprague, Kenai City Manager Rick Koch and Kenai Watershed Forum Executive Director Robert Ruffner.

With the assistance of Ruffner, Sleater said the group developed a proposed regulation to be submitted to the Board of Fisheries and the Board of Game.

“This is an opportunity to take the initiative to say, ‘Here. This is where we are and this is where we’re going,’” Sleater said.

He said the Soldotna City Council planned to consider the proposed Board of Fisheries regulation at Wednesday night’s meeting because the council would not meet again until after the fish board’s deadline.

“It’s gonna take the governor to designate someone to take the lead role,” Sleater said.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at

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