Soldotna council approves river pollution proposal

Suggestions to be sent to Board of Fish

Posted: Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Fearing federal intervention to remove hydrocarbon pollutants from the Kenai River, the city of Soldotna took a first step Wednesday, giving its OK to a state Board of Fisheries regulation proposal.

The proposal, authored by a joint committee of representatives from Soldotna, Kenai and the Kenai Peninsula Borough, is to be considered as a place holder, reserving a spot on the next scheduled agenda of the state board.

Soldotna City Council member Shane Horan said he and council member Ed Sleater met with borough assembly members Pete Sprague and Gary Knopp to develop the resolution. Kenai City Council members Joe Moore and Rick Ross also participated.

As outlined in the group’s proposal, during peak salmon fishing season in July, several hundred gallons of gasoline enter the river daily, exceeding state water quality standards.

Evidence suggests that “traditionally carbureted two-stroke motors pollute in a dramatically disproportional amount compared to several other available options — more than 10 to 1 compared to an equal four-stroke,” according to the group’s description of the problem.

The local government representatives said in their proposal that they would like to see a solution that comes from all user groups “in proportion to the amount of pollution each user contributes to the river.

Some solutions the group offered include a change in means and methods of catching fish that limits the run time of boat engines; limiting the total number of motorized boats on the river at any one time with a complete phase out of two-stroke engines; and increasing the use of electric motors and drift boats.

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.

The government bodies signed a joint resolution calling for them to work together to remove and keep the river from the federal impaired water body list; ask state and federal agencies to take action; work on regulatory actions within their own jurisdictions; and develop the Board of Fisheries regulation change proposal.

The Soldotna council unanimously adopted the proposal.

Soldotna had suggested earlier that Gov. Sarah Palin direct one state agency to take the lead in finding a solution.

In other business, the council:

n Awarded a $276,475 contract to Peninsula Construction for the Soldotna Visitor Center and Kenai Classic fishwalk construction and handicap access;

n Authorized the city manager to apply for a Federal Aviation Administration grant to purchase land from Troy Hodges for an airport expansion;

n Adopted a temporary ordinance to provide an expedited permitting procedure for people to rebuild Kenai River property damaged by winter flooding and ice floes; and

n Increased the city appropriation to $323,000 to repair and replace city stairs and fishwalks damaged during the winter.

During his mayor’s report, Dave Carey said April will be the last month of the school year for his Red, White and Blue program sending letters and donations of goodwill items to military men and women.

“I would like to send fish -- a taste of Alaska,” Carey said.

He said the military has agreed to air freight cans and jars of fish to troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan as long as everything is at Fort Richardson by April 27.

Student ex-officio member Tashina Wortham-Turnbull invited the community to a ’40s and ’50s sock hop at Skyview High School from 8 to 11 p.m. April 13. Tickets cost $5 she said.

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