Working group process updated

Posted: Sunday, April 18, 2004

During Thursday's Kenai River Special Management Advisory meeting, Alaska State Parks Area Superintendent Chris Degernes gave an update on the Kenai River Working Group process and also released the names of the 14 representatives picked by Alaska State Parks Director Gary Morrison to serve on the panel.

Degernes said the working group, which was created at the request of the board in order to re-examine the issue of limiting Kenai River fishing guide numbers, is expected to begin work as soon as a professional facilitator is located to oversee the process.

"His goal is to have a facilitator in place so the first meeting can be held within a month or a month and a half," she said.

Degernes also responded to criticism leveled by a member of the public that the selection process for the working group was not publicized enough to accommodate the entire community.

"There was really quite a bit of information out there about this," she said, noting that information was available in a number of public forums.

Degernes' comments came after Kasilof's Paul Zimmerman said he was upset that the process wasn't more open to the public. Zimmerman said he felt the process was one where working group members were sought out, rather than selected from a pool of applicants.

"There were certain people reached out to, other people were not reached out to, and then the public application period was closed," Zimmerman said during the public comment period at the start of the meeting. "I'm a little disappointed."

Degernes said that, contrary to Zimmerman's suggestions, the process was open and that State Parks received a large number of applicants.

"There were way more applications than we had available seats," she said.

The working group selected by Morrison is made up of representatives from a variety of interest groups with a stake in the Kenai River, including Kenai River Professional Guides Association President Steve McClure and board member Joe Hanes; unaffiliated guides Andrew Szczesny and Ronald Weilbacher; Will Josey of the Kenai River Property Owners Association; Kenai-Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee Chair Dwight Kramer; rental boat business owner John Cho; multiple guide business owner Kirk Hoessle; KRSMA board member Ted Wellman; KRSMA Commercial Operator's Committee member Joe Connors; sport anglers Jim Golden and Porter Pollard; Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly President Pete Sprague; and Kenai River Sportfishing Association representative Reuben Hanke.

Degernes said that now that the working group's membership is set, a meeting will be held in the spring after a facilitator is found. The group will then break for the summer before reconvening in the fall.

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